'Living Among Us': Film Review

Better to wait for that 'What We Do in the Shadows' spinoff.
2/2/2018

Brian A. Metcalf's faux-doc stars a family of vampires who just want their human neighbors not to fear them.

Another found-footage thriller about intrepid documentarians who get in over their heads while investigating a strange scene, Brian A. Metcalf's Living Among Us follows three newscasters who set out to profile a family of vampires. The hook this time is that the immortals are just like us — afflicted by a virus that makes them drink (volunteer-supplied) blood, but otherwise eager to get along. Though enjoyable enough for undemanding genre fans, the pic will soon slink from theaters to embrace its undeath on streaming platforms.

Benny (Hunter Gomez), as the brother-in-law of a local TV news station chief, doesn't deserve to be part of a team with reporters Mike (Thomas Ian Nicholas) and Carrie (Jordan Hinson), but that's not the main reason the two are so annoyed with him. The kid belongs to that breed, seen mainly in flicks like this, who can't do anything in life without filming it. Expect to hear plenty of variations of "will you put that thing down and help?" for the next hour and a half, and don't think for a second Benny will drop the camera, even when he might need both hands to fight for his life.

The world has already come to understand that vampires are everywhere — it's a virus, not magic, no biggie — and now the bloodsuckers are in their public-relations phase. Ambassadors of the community reassure mortals that the only blood they drink now is from blood banks supplied by vamp-friendly humans; when questioned about their reputation for hunting the innocent, they act like Americans discussing slavery: "Yes. That was unfortunately part of our history...."

Hoping to dispel some ugly myths, a vampire household has invited the three broadcasters to stay with them for a few days, doing interviews and seeing how they live. They cook nice dinners for the youths, keeping them company while they themselves enjoy a liquid diet. (A nice vintage of Czech plasma, say.) While the thing about sunlight is true — some sort of pigment mutation causes their skin to blister violently — head of household Andrew (John Heard) happily reports that most of the other stuff in storybooks is superstition. Crucifixes, holy water and garlic are no problem. Yeah, a stake in the heart would kill us. Wouldn't it kill you?

Taking advantage of their hosts' day-sleeping habits, the reporters plant hidden cameras throughout the house, recording even the things they've been sworn not to photograph. Like, say, the sexploitation ritual in which the vampires tie up a nearly naked young woman, slice open her veins and feed. A visiting vampire elder (William Sadler) explains that this ceremony commemorates their past; Andrew's wife, Eleanor (Esme Bianco), eases her guests' revulsion by explaining that this is also a form of service to the human community: This sacrificed woman, we're told, was a prostitute who knowingly spread HIV to her customers.

So that's an icky moment on all sorts of levels. Metcalf scoots us right past it, focusing on a younger bloodsucker in the household, the supremely bro-ish Blake (Andrew Keegan), who can't help but show off for the camera. He's dying to prove to Benny and Mike that he's not as politically correct as Andrew and Eleanor. Boy, does he show them.

The movie soon devolves into an extremely familiar escape-the-monsters affair, with all the compounding dumbness usually involved when our fleeing heroes are forced to keep filming the action. (And do they stop to bicker about relationship troubles while in a basement full of corpses that might reanimate around them? Of course they do.) Mercifully, Metcalf doesn't stretch this section out; but he also offers no surprises between now and the credits. No, folks, vampires are not our friends. And low-budget, found-footage horror movies are never going to feel as fresh as they did in 1999.

Production company: Red Compass Media
Cast: Thomas Ian Nicholas, Hunter Gomez, Jordan Hinson, John Heard, Esme Bianco, William Sadler, Andrew Keegan, Chad Todhunter, James Russo
Director/screenwriter/editor: Brian A. Metcalf
Producers: Brian A. Metcalf, Thomas Ian Nicholas
Executive producer: Ben Chan
Directors of photography: Brian A. Metcalf, Evan Okada

83 minutes

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