Published on February 7th, 2018 | by Richard Gary0
Living Among Us
A surprisingly good cast populates this found footage entry into the vampire genre. Do two overused devices equal a decent movie? In this case, sure.
Wow, a combination of ancient vampire lore and the more modern found footage format, mixed with the sensationalistic news feeding frenzy combine into a perfect storm of culture clashes that cover both the temporal (centuries) and spacial (a big house).
A trio of shock video journalists are assigned to do a story about a clan of vampires, that old tradition that until now has kept in the cover of literal darkness, but is now claiming their own rights to exist in the open as persecuted citizens of the social contract.
I remember seeing Man Bites Dog (1992), a Belgian film about a news crew following a serial killer, and over time becoming not only complicit, but eventually actually joining in on the action (e.g., helping in the disposing of bodies). This release mixes this premise a bit with an recent and unfairly obscure Irish film called Do You Recognise Me? (2017), in which a similar film crew is invited into a mysterious group for nefarious reasons.
Our protagonists are on-screen unkempt reporter Mike (Thomas Ian Nicholas), his assistant Carrie (Jordan Hinson) and the new kid on the block with the ever running camera, Benny (Hunter Gomez). Basically, Benny is in the story to (a) film everything, whether it’s known to those he is capturing or on the down low (while sticking to many of the vampire traditional strengths and weaknesses, sometimes in spectacular fashion, they can be filmed and seen in mirrors), and (b) to be told by Mike to “turn that damn camera off” multiple times; wait, aren’t they journalists? I would think he would insist on the camera staying on, but what do I know.
The focus of their documentary is a “family” (no real – err – blood relations) of neck biters, led by patriarch/leader Samuel (John Heard in his last role; he was the dad in the Home Alone franchise). The matriarch is Elleanor (Esmé Bianco, who many will recognize as Ros from “Game of Thrones”). The other two are the younger-looking sociopathic “bad boy” Blake (Andrew Keegan) who is like a ‘50s juvenile delinquent, and the creepy and mostly silent Selvin (Chad Todhunter). They are the equivalent of the Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff) character in Blade who are tired of being in the social background around their food. Later coming to the party is Samuel (William Sadler), the Sectional Leader of the Vampire Awareness campaign, and his companions who are the equivalent of Dracula’s trio of wives.
With the understanding that some of these vampires are hundreds of years old, it seems like the male characters are either prudish and ‘older’ or nutsoid and hyper ‘younger’ men, and only beautiful women. Are there no elderly or heavy-set women (or men) vampires? Just curious.
Now how does this fare as far as a found footage feature goes? Well, there are some of the clichés such as running around the dark by the camera lights and the camera’s annoying and unrealistic visual noise, but at least the batteries are explained. Despite the overuse of this genre, they add enough interesting aspects, such as vampires, a couple of nice jump scares, and some decent use of the footage in the third act that actually gives it a pretty good turn. Thank you to the director, Brian A. Metcalf.
Considering the history of this cast, it should come as no surprise that the acting is above par. Many of the players have worked together before on televisions shows such as Party of Five, so the give-and-take feels natural. Heard seems a bit stiff physically even though his acting is smooth, but considering that he was about to have back surgery, that’s no surprise, and I give solid respect. British born Bianco also does well in an almost gliding way as she shimmers through her scenes with a touch of the class of the gentry, and disdain for the common reporters, while trying to put up a façade of pleasantry.
Keegan and Todhunter play weird and wild effectively, and Nicholas acts strongly, going from arrogant to uncomfortable to…well, so on.
The last act, as should be, is more intense; while anyone who has seen their fair share of found footage flicks can kind of guess where it’s all going to end up, the route there is a fun ride so don’t let that hinder your decision to watch. And be sure to read the scrawl under the newscaster (a cameo by the director) at the end. Made me smile.