Since I wasn’t at TIFF in 2011 I haven’t seen Livide, the seemingly eternally delayed second film from Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo. Still, even though their debut classic Inside is something of a distant memory at this point, I feel like the pair constitute something close to event filmmakers for the horror crowd. And for good reason. Even if most of us haven’t been able to see all of their films – when they do something new you take notice.
And, despite a few misgivings, Among The Living doesn’t do much to change that. Maury and Bustillo’s status as masters of imagery, mood and unrelentingly beautiful carnage remains intact. And my misgivings here are mainly of the “it’s not as tight as Inside” variety. The three central kids – Victor, Dan and Tom – are at times remarkably authentic troublemakers. But the price we pay as an audience for their hijinks is a somewhat lurching narrative. I get that we need to set them up as known ne’re do wells so their claims aren’t taken seriously when they witness something truly horrible, and that objective is more than accomplished. Still, there’s not a lot of pull to their story – it’s much more of a hang-out film with characters who are too young to have really developed much regard for anyone but themselves. The much touted Stand By Me comparison rings a bit false here, even though there’s plenty of fun to be had in their interactions.
When they do witness something grisly and untoward, they return home to their separate families and that’s where the film’s amazing final stretch begins. Klarence, a villain with a simple yet almost iconic and mesmerizing appearance, begins to hunt down each of the boy’s families looking to eliminate witnesses. And it’s here (along with a brutal opening to the film) that we’re reminded why Bustillo and Maury are masters of both atmosphere and gore. We’re also reminded that a lot of American films with similar production values play it so incredibly safe compared to these guys – without spoiling too much there are casualties you wouldn’t expect. And there are ways of killing people onscreen that I have ever seen before.
Despite a few occasionally turgid elements, I can’t wait to see this film again. Even if the film’s opening stretch still fails to really carry me, I know I’ll aways have the utterly insane and effective last act to look forward to.
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