It’s Halloween and the kids are dressed up and knocking on doors for their treats, but they won’t get any here at the Facheurs’ home, where mother Jeanne (Béatrice Dalle) tells them where to go and closes the door in their faces, then gets back to preparing dinner. Her husband, Isaac (Francis Renaud) is watching television, a report about chemical warfare that he has some connection to, as he is certainly suffering flashbacks to something in his past. But as he watches, he doesn’t hear Jeanne advancing on him with a bat, and she smashes him over the head with it, knocking him to the floor, then goes upstairs to their young son while brandishing a knife, yelling that she’s sick of him and wants to kill him…
This little introduction does not have a happy ending, but what is it about? Truth be told, even by the end the murky dealings with dangerous chemicals and perhaps even some scientific experimentation remained not entirely clear, but it didn’t really matter for we were in slasher territory once again, and the backstory to those were not as relevant as getting on with the chasing about and falling victim to the bad guy. It was the brainchild of French directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury, who were establishing themselves as talents in the field of horror to watch, though not everyone agreed about how high their quality was. Here they seemed to be marking time more than pushing back boundaries.
They did cast Béatrice Dalle again, and once more she visited harm on a pregnant woman though in this case that woman was herself, exiting the story early so we could jump forward a while to catch up with the actual protagonist, a young boy called Victor (Théo Fernandez). He’s a bit of a scamp, as are his two pals Tom (Zacharie Chasseriaud) and Dan (Damien Ferdel), and could soon be graduating to actual lawbreaking and ruining their prospects with a life of crime if they’re not careful, something the film made its running theme, that of a lack of a strong father figure to see them right. For whatever reasons, their dads are not up to the task of looking after them, Victor’s in particular has a very good excuse in that he’s dead.
But then, Klarence (Fabien Jegoudez) is lacking a positive guiding force as well. Who he? He was the boy in the introduction who Jeanne wanted to murder, but when we catch up with him he’s a towering, wiry maniac who when the three boys stumble upon him is kidnapping a woman and holding her in the long abandoned movie studio out in the countryside. The kids are playing truant and have recently set a hated farmer’s barn on fire, so the cops are looking for them, just as well when they need to tell someone in authority about the victim they’ve just seen. So far, a lot of scene setting then, and there was a sense of the directors deliberately delaying getting to the point, teasing the audience before the mayhem began as they were well aware it would.
Thus when the blood started to flow there was a more dutiful tone to this rather than having something valid to exhibit in what was by this time a very well-worn genre, so if you were going to be entertained by Among the Living, or Aux yeux des vivants as it was known in its original French, then be prepare for nothing groundbreaking, more the entertainment value of seeing a film where you knew what was going to happen (big bloke pursues people and kills them), but appreciating the variations on a theme that had, it seemed, been set in stone for a good three decades or more before this was released. Although there were parts where the directors tended towards the uncharacteristically coy when depicting the kills, at other scenes they threw themselves into the bloody violence with some enthusiasm, leaving a curious impression of not knowing how far each sequence was going to go. Still, there was suspense, the effects were fine and the cast added personality to somewhat stock roles, though the conclusion ultimately looked keen on as sequel that didn’t feel too necessary. Music by Raphaël Gesqua.