Living Among Us Movie Review
Written by Rachel Knightley
Released by Red Compass Media
Written and directed by Brian A. Metcalf
2018, 87 minutes, Not rated
Theatrical release on 2nd February 2018
Andrew Keegan as Blake
John Heard as Andrew
Esmé Bianco as Elleanor
William Sadler as Samuel
Thomas Ian Nicholas as Mike
Jordan Hinson as Carrie
As horror and as satire, this second feature film from writer-director Brian A. Metcalf has originality and bite. Metcalf’s wider experience as photographer, visual effects artist and documentary maker as well as producer and director are evident in how elegantly his found-footage presentation tells the story; not a frame is cheated yet the shots never feels repetitive. The pacey and streamlined storytelling respects and fully inhabits its conventions so we absolutely believe in the footage and can almost stop noticing the cameras we’re behind.
A three-person documentary team is volunteered by its station manager to accept the invitation of a family of vampires. The team will stay in their home, dispel the myths and chronicle their everyday lives. Our narrator is Benny (Hunter Gomez), the well-meaning nephew of the boss, who seasoned documentary maker and TV star Mike (Thomas Ian Nicholas) politely implies has all the trappings of getting everybody killed. Carrie (Jordan Hinson), who Benny tells us has been Mike’s “right hand man – I mean woman – since the beginning”, isn’t keen either. But they’re a professional team and hey, they’ve recorded cannibals and lived to tell the tale to the world.
Metcalf’s gently eloquent satire on prejudice begins when the crew automatically veer towards the abandoned house across the road from the perfectly normal American home where the vampires actually live. Upon arrival, all goes well. Elleanor (Esme Bianco, simmering with anger and dignity as her guests air their misconceptions about her family) and Andrew (a powerfully touching swansong for John Heard) are a respectable, polite if traditional couple. The family are visible in mirrors, take donations for blood from banks instead of preying on random victims, and do not have fangs. They are patient and dignified in the face of prejudice from the film crew, and ask only for respect for their home and traditions, and a chance to tell their story.
Of course we know there’s going to be a darker truth, and this film delivers everything we want from it with twists that stop it ever being quite what we expect. This is not just true in horror terms: another prejudice Metcalf subverts with gentle eloquence is our expectations of the female characters. Elleanor (Bianco) and Carrie (Hinson) are initially reticent, seemingly there predominantly as wife of Andrew and ex-girlfriend of Mike. Yet both cases of apparently exposition-led characterisation evolve into pivotal roles in the action, teasing the audience about our expectations of victimhood.
Andrew Keegan is a delight as Blake, the young badboy of the house, whose apparent friendly and laid-back demeanour will last as long as it’s in his interest, giving a great sense of danger when he invites the crew to share in his nightlife action – as long as they don’t tell his dad. His double-act with his almost silent brother Selvin (Chad Todhunter) gives a sinister and gruesomely funny reminder of the presence of a bloodier story in the background, and William Sadler’s supporting role as Samuel, the vampire’s sect leader, looms over the action so that even when nothing too bad is happening we never lose faith that it will.
The blood is most definitely in a supporting role to the satire, plot and characterisation. While for gore fans this will be a slow burn, the moments of true horror more than justify the build-up. A brilliantly cast, respectful and playful, sinister and funny take on the vampire story, with not a shot or moment wasted in pushing the plot in an exceptionally graceful command of the found-footage genre.