Childhood can be a scary time; new feelings, emotions, friendship made and friendships lost. You have to be strong to be kid. And in Among The Living, this strength is put to the test by the monstrous, one that draws into the light not only the endurance of the child, but also the failings of the patriarchy before them. It’s the last day of school before summer break and 14 year-old troublemakers Victor, Tom and Dan decide to skip class to avoid detention and wind up causing mischief in the countryside. Finding their way onto the back-lot at an abandoned film studio, they witness a hulking masked figure dragging a kidnapped woman into an underground lair. Escaping this terrifying scene, they are punished for their wild actions and even worse, no one believes their ‘crazy’ story. But this mysterious evil has followed them home, with the intention to silence them, no matter what it takes.

Among The Living is more than just a tale of innocence lost, it’s about the inevitability of this loss; the ‘monster’ doesn’t steal the innocence, only draws into focus how much innocence has already been taken from these boys’ lives, through tragedy, abuse and neglect. This is where the film truly excels; it’s critique of childhood in modern times, one where the responsibility of parenthood has become eschewed. By the film’s conclusion, the best, most dedicated father is revealed to be the father of the mutant killer.

The opening half is an incredible set up, as the youthful abandon of the children is suddenly ground to a halt by the intervention of the evil in the world. The camera work is magnificent; if any element is reminiscent of Tobe Hooper’s seminal Texas Chainsaw Massacre, it is the deliberate motion of the camera, at once slow and ominous, paced to drain every last drop tension out of the audience. It also features one of the most effective openings of modern horror, one that sets up the intrigue of the film to come, but more importantly, explodes with violent menace and desperation that will leave audiences aghast with it’s intense reality and physicality.

Unfortunately, once the monster enters the children’s spaces, the pay off doesn’t live up to the set up; there is some excellent imagery once the physicality of the monster is revealed, and some scares are coaxed from this, but in truth, the nuanced emotive build up is left behind for straight forward horror tropes, and slasher film mentality, one that is less effective and horrific than the slow ratcheting tension. Indeed, the focus finds itself being placed onto the one of the children and his family in particularly; suddenly, the strength of the performance between the three children, one that drives the film forward and feels very real is lost, and the film degenerates slightly with it, which is disappointing.

Among The Living is an interesting slice of French horror with some exceptional moments, an effective ‘Hills Have Eyes’ vibe, and mature performances from the three child leads; yet, like the monstrous killer, it is one of degeneration as it cannot maintain the high standard it opens with, and falls into the trap of easy horror conventions. However, it is a film worth experiencing for the high points, which truly leave a mark on the viewer.

 

VERDICT: [rating=3]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About The Author

Matthew Hammond is a full time cinephile, specializing in cult, art house and 1980’s cinema. While film is his overwhelming passion, Matthew has been known to enjoy comic books, Sherlock Holmes stories and a good film related T-shirt. Feel free to email me with any questions or comments: mattpaul61@o2.co.uk