I have been in a bad mood of late. A bad mood brought on by bad horror.
I have watched two remake/reboots this week that were disappointing (both of which I hope to report on very soon) and the bad feelings they stirred up were then further agitated when I watched Living Among Us, which was surprisingly bad.
Vampires have been done and done. We have the Blade/Underworld era to thank for that. Thanks to all the sequels and the copycats most horror addicts were left feeling decidedly unexcited by neck biters – they became so commonplace that they soon weren’t scary anymore. Something that then happened with zombies – but that’s a moan for another day.
Another genre, or more filmic style that was done to death was the first person, found footage film. Born from greats like The Blair Witch Project, these handheld style movies were cheap to make and were abused to the point of ruin, eventually making them an instant turn off for any film fan.
So you can imagine my surprise when Living Among Us, a found footage vampire film ended up in my review pile. A film released this year. Not 2008.
To make matters more confusing, this isn’t a film full of nobodies. The lead is Thomas Ian Nicholas, one of the main guys from the American Pie anthology. He’s followed by John Heard, best known as Kevin McCallister’s dad in the Home Alone movies. And most troubling of all is the inclusion of William Sadler whose list of film appearances includes Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight, The Mist and The Shawshank Redemption – how on earth did he get talked into this one?
The plot of Living Among Us is painfully unimaginitive and predictable. We’re introduced to not too distant future where vampires are real. After having previously only existed in stories it turns out that there is a rare genetic disorder that explains why a group of people emerges with a sensitvity to sunlight and a need to feed on blood.
A group of vampire spokespeople are desperate to make clear that they aren’t the fictional, evil killers that we’ve seen, heard and read about. To make this clear, they invite a small, three person TV crew to spend a week in their home to see just how normal and harmless they are. Yes, just three, amateur people are invited to break this world altering story.
And although they are told that their hosts are nothing like vampires of lore, the crew is encouraged not to bring things like crusifixes or holy water along for the stay. Not that they are searched for such items upon arrival (which is lucky as they do take stuff along) and it’s odd that the vampires don’t want these apparently harmless things around – unless they really do hurt them and they really ARE just like the vampires in the stories! OMG (I mean this sarcastically).
Things get increasingly painful as the trio, led by jouralist Mike (Thomas Ian Nicholas) starts his interviews only to find that their friendly facade quickly dissipates with probing questions such as ‘do you kill people’. Soon it’s obvious that this plan to show the world how normal they are isn’t such a good idea after all – which is just one of the things that makes the film so silly.
The tongue slips, badly phrased responses and awkward moments are so bad that it’s almost as if this film were meant to be a black comedy or parody of some sort. Sadly though, it it isn’t. It is just a very bad film that screams ‘amateur’.
The human charaters aren’t likable or interesting, so noone cares what happens to them. And there’s something in the way that the scripts are written that makes even the most experienced actors look weak.
There are some slightly more enjoyable moments with Blake, a young vampire played by Andrew Keegan. His character at least has some personality. But even that is shot to bits when in an effort to show the film crew how ‘normal’ they are, he decides to take them out on a killing spree. This could be one of the stupidest moments in the film and the time when I was nearest to finally turning it off and quitting.
The action scenes are okay along with the use of effects, but there’s nothing we haven’t seen before here.
I hate to be so negative about a film but there really is no excuse for such laziness nowadays. The only people who I think would find any entertainment in Living Among Us would be those that are young and new to horror, having had no prior exposure to vampires other than the Twilight, twinkling variety. Or people that had never seen a found footage film before – an aspect that brings very little to the film anyway.
The poor scripting and boring plot makes the whole first person experience feel more like a very cheap, live action horror maze rather than a film production with a decent budget.
Writer/director Michael A. Metcalf will have to work hard to make up for this one.