Among the Living (Aux yeux des vivants) (2014) [REVIEW] [SXSW’14]

It’s hard to talk about what some of the best slashers are in the past ten years with any genre fan without someone mentioning the french film Inside. The only time I saw it was before I had even started this site but even without having viewed it under a more critical set of eyes, one thing I learned from watching Inside was just how much blood was contained in the human body. The French writing/directing team of Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury spared no bloodshed in this tale of a pregnant woman being tormented. Although it’s yet to have an official American release, the duo followed up with Livid in 2011, which I’ve heard continues in the spirit of Inside as far as pushing the genre in extreme directions. The duo premiered their newest film, Among the Living, at South by Southwest and they claim this is the last in their trilogy of horror films that pay homage to their formative American influences. Don’t worry, yes, this one is also super fucked up and brutal. Hooray!

While watching a news report about the long-lasting effects of experimental toxic warfare can have on future generations, a former military man just barely saves his affected son from being killed by his mother. We are led to believe this family is way fucked up. Years later, on their last day of school before summer vacation, three best friends decide to cut class. They have a whole bunch of fun because they’re boys in junior high and they’re doing bad stuff. Doing bad stuff is the best! The kids explore an abandoned movie lot and unfortunately see more than they bargained for. What they see changes their lives forever. Although they’d love to leave what they saw behind them, these things torment them even after they return home, both metaphorically and literally. I’m sure these kids wish they had just stayed in school that day as opposed to being violently attacked by the mutated, monstrous shell of a human. Don’t we all?

You guys like The X Files, right? Of course you do. Do you remember the episode entitled “Home” from season 4? It aired once and there was such an uproar over how terrifying that episode was that it didn’t show again for a few years, until a special Halloween airing of it. If you know what this episode was, then you’ll fucking LOVE Among the Living. That’s one of my all-time favorite episodes, so yes, seeing a longer, more violent version of an episode of a TV show that was formative in my fears was quite a thrill. If you haven’t seen that episode, then Among the Living is still fucking terrifying. Apart from the graphically violent opening scene, Bustillo and Maury show their technical prowess with the camera and with tone and that they can do more than just put gross shit on screen. Despite knowing that things won’t go well for our protagonists, there are times where you lose yourself in the Spielberg-ian nostalgia of kids just hanging out and being kids. When their number is up, it makes it all the more gut-wrenching when you realize our villain will have absolutely no hesitation in brutally destroying any target in its path.

Okay yeah, there are scenes or graphic violence, but you know what? There are quite a few moments where the camera cuts as soon as the violence SHOULD be seen, which in some ways makes the violence seem all the more intense. You lost track of just how high the body count is, but I’d see we only see about half of those deaths on-screen. Some other viewers sounded a little disappointed, knowing the lengths that the directors are willing to go in the brutality they show, but a well-placed “THUD” or scream resonated that much more intensely with me. Knowing that the antagonist would be some sort of mutated monstrosity, the first time it’s revealed, you still can’t help but gasp at how grotesque they are. We’ve seen plenty of films with disfigured murderers, but I can guarantee you’ve never seen anything quite like what you’ll see in Among the Living. Once revealed, the immense power and child-like innocence of the crimes its committing have quite an impact on the viewer. If you’ve seen the previous films of the French duo, you know that nobody is safe, so you don’t get too close to any of the characters as you know they’re just vessels of meat that could be annihilated at any moment. The relationship building of the three boys in the first act slows down the carnage appropriately so that way, once the shit hits the fan, the relentless brutality doesn’t let up until the characters, and audience, are left curled up in a ball and crying.

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One response to “Among the Living (Aux yeux des vivants) (2014) [REVIEW] [SXSW’14]

  1. Pingback: Sitges 2014 | Previa exhaustivaLa Llave Azul·

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