Studio: Vision Films
Director: Brian A. Metcalf
Writer: Brian A. Metcalf
Producer: Thomas Ian Nicholas, Brian A. Metcalf
Stars: William Sadler, Thomas Ian Nicholas, James Russo, Esme Bianco, Andrew Keegan, John Heard, Jordan Hinson, Hunter Gomez, Chad Todhunter
With vampires living openly among humans, a documentary film crew interviews a mysterious family claiming to be undead.
When the world learns that vampires are not only real, but living alongside humans, Samuel (William Sadler) embarks on a minor media campaign to assuage understandable fears. As a mouthpiece for promoting purported pacifism, Samuel wants the public to know vampires aren’t out to murder mankind. They are actually as average as anyone else.
That’s the first problem with “Living Among Us.” These vampires are almost as yawningly ordinary as everyday people. And the mockumentary documenting their daily lives feels as flatly uninteresting as any other forgettable “found footage” film.
Despite shaggy hair, glazed eyes, and visibly clammy skin perpetually making him look as though he just did a bump in the bathroom, Mike (Thomas Ian Nicholas) apparently has credibility as a Ken Burns-caliber documentarian. For a job as important as filming an in-depth exposé on a vampire family, it naturally makes sense that Mike’s station manager Aaron (James Russo, billed third despite appearing in only three scenes, two of which are via video) pairs Mike with his inexperienced brother-in-law Benny and the saddest selection of “professional” recording equipment anyone has ever seen (the Hi8 camera is essential for its night vision mode, we’re told).
Oh, Mike’s girlfriend and professional partner Carrie comes along for the ride too. Then she takes ill and remains in bed for much of the movie, making her inclusion entirely negligible.
Mike and Benny, and Carrie technically, meet head of the vampiric household Andrew (John Heard), his wife Elleanor (Esme Bianco), and their pseudo-sons Blake and Selvin. The movie muddles its mythology here a little bit. Vampires have been out in the open for some time, yet Mike’s interviews start on science-minded details like how sunlight affects their skin, how it is possible to live for several centuries, etc. In a world where humans coexist with the undead, I’d imagine a Discovery Channel special would have rendered such basic questions obsolete by now. Nevertheless, this tiny news team explains the fiction’s “rules” for the audience’s benefit all the same.
If you’re thinking “Living Among Us” sounds like “What We Do in the Shadows” (review here), you’re both right and wrong. You’re right in that “Living Among Us” follows the same conceit of vampires smilingly participating in a tell-all meant to dispel false notions about who/what they are. You’re wrong in that “What We Do in the Shadows” features charismatic characters, biting dialogue, and appealing entertainment value while “Living Among Us” includes none of those things.
Remember the creepy cool “Salem’s Lot”-inspired Nosferatu from “What We Do in the Shadows?” His feral Renfield counterpart in “Living Among Us” is just a guy in an Old Navy hoodie. Where “What We Do in the Shadows” has a dapper gentleman dandy, “Living Among Us” puts Andrew Keegan in a leather jacket to look like Eric Balfour doing a poor Johnny Depp impression.
Commenters on another website who suspiciously sound like people associated with the production wish to make it clear that “Living Among Us” began filming in 2013, before “What We Do in the Shadows” premiered. That valid defense against copycat criticisms inadvertently says more about the film by revealing it took over four years to finally land a release date.
“Bad” isn’t a fair word to encapsulate the acting, although performances don’t complement the “found footage” frame. Dialogue exchanges are clearly scripted with the cast visibly reciting rehearsed lines. Convincingness thus tends to be directly dependent on the person’s relative experience, as actors fend for themselves to find personalities. For instance, veterans William Sadler and John Heard fare better at appearing in the moment while Thomas Ian Nicholas and Andrew Keegan look locked into “off book” autopilot.
Feelings of phoniness carry over to technical execution. “Living Among Us” disappointingly resorts to an always-annoying digital corruption and audio hiss masking transitions. Someone says something along the lines of a video feed being affected by transmitter distance, yet curiously, these glitches conspicuously occur every time an effect like a decapitation, dismemberment, or some other action refuses to be presented cleanly. A montage of newscast clips similarly smacks of cheapness with green screen backgrounds and actors who wouldn’t be believable as man-on-the-street interviewees, much less anchors at a desk.
Arriving too late and with too little substance to have any relevance as a mockumentary or as a vampire movie, a low budget, lame conception, and zero-intrigue setup drain “Living Among Us” of any color or creativity. The only notch the film has above other indie horror or “found footage” flops is a cast of actors that audiences have actually heard of. If not for those names, no one would ever have heard of “Living Among Us.”
Review Score: 35