Among the Living arrives this week On Demand, giving audiences a new zombie/survival film with some solid performances and interesting new ideas.
I’m just about always down with new zombie movies, even if all of them begin to tread upon the same ideas. Even so, there’s something about them that keeps me coming back. As such, I was interested to see what Among the Living (not to be confused with a film of the same name back in 2014) and how Dread’s latest production would tackle things.
Among the Living (2022)
Directed By: Rob Worsey
Written By: Rob Worsey
Starring: Dean Michael Gregory, Melissa Worsey, Leon Worsey, Emily Rose Holt, George Newton
Release Date: October 4, 2022 on VOD services
The ultimate result is a mixed bag that manages to be a far more thought-provoking film than expected. The story itself, is relatively straightforward and something zombie movie fans will likely find familiar. It takes place shortly after a deadly outbreak has killed off the majority of the population, turning them into bloodthirsty monsters. A brother, Harry (Dean Michael Gregory), and his younger sister, Lily (Melissa Worsey), set off into the countryside in search of refuge and to possibly meet up with their Father. Along the way, they’ll have to avoid the infected and other survivors who might wish to do them harm.
Honestly, despite treading some familiar territory, I dug how Among the Living developed its world. This isn’t right after the outbreak, as so many zombie films focus on, showing the mayhem and panic of those initial days. Rather, it’s a little further along, but not so far along that the characters are completely at ease with navigating the new world. It’s a good, in between period of time, where no one is necessarily pannicking anymore, but are clearly still learning how to survive.
It’s something a bit different than we normally see, and it gives certain elements an improved level of tension, while also making certain choices by characters far more relatable. It’s easy to place yourself in their shoes as they learn certain things and react to various situations.
On top of that, I really enjoyed how the film established their zombies and the “rules” around how they operate. Generally speaking, these aren’t traditional zombies. They run fast, and seem to have an aversion to light. More, they’re attracted to the smell of blood and not necessarily people just walking about.
So they’re a little bit different, offering a nice change of pace, but what impressed me most was how excellently the film introduced these elements. There’s no big exposition dump, or even usage of voice-over narration (there’s some of that, but not in this context) that explains the world and its monsters to audiences. Rather, you’re able to put it together based on how the characters react to certain things.
Without diving into spoilers, here are some quick examples. At one point you see Harry drive off one of the infected with a flashlight. Another point, early on, we see how even minor cuts are considered a huge deal, where covering it up with heavy tape to prevent anything from seeping out. Like sharks, the scent of fresh blood will bring these infected running, and it’s used in some neat ways during the film (which I won’t spoil here).
It’s far more subtle world-building than we’re used to in many of these kinds of zombie movies. Typically the film already expected viewers to know the general rules of the zombies/infected, or they have a certain character lay it all out for you. It made for a nice bit of visual storytelling that the director uses in a few other ways too.
Anyway, during their travels, Lily becomes injured thanks to a booby trap, and are forced to take up refuge with an older man, Karl (George Newton), and a young child named Tom (Leon Worsey). Compared to their previous travels, living in a cabin while Lilly heals up (and getting to play with a kid near her own age), seems like paradise. Yet something seems off with Karl…
To be honest, I can’t quite talk much more about the overall story. I don’t want to spoil things if you’re interested in watching, but this also kinda boils down to my biggest gripe with the film in general: there really isn’t a story.
Despite opening up with mention of how they’re traveling to their Dad’s place of living, that doesn’t really seem to be the goal of the film. Instead, Among the Living, plays out more like a slice of life story within this zombie world. We see some tension thrown in there with Karl, a potential threat, but the way it’s developed makes it clear that’s not the central focus of the story either.
If anything, the “plot” seems to be about Harry having to learn to do what needs to be done in this new world. There’s some moral quandaries he’s faced with, unique to the circumstances of this world, and there’s a struggle between still feeling like a decent person and doing what he has to to keep his sister alive. In this way, the film is more drama than outright zombie mayhem (action sequences and even gore is relatively lowkey).
It’s…interesting, and refreshing in its own way. But again, all this plays out in slice of life sequences that don’t build to an overall story.
Don’t get me wrong, I was never bored while watching the movie. The characters and how the filmmakers developed this world kept me engaged throughout, and despite the lack of zombie action, managed to maintain an impressive level of tension. By the time the credits rolled, however, I couldn’t help feeling like something was missing; perhaps more of a sense of conclusion. For the most part the story leaves the characters much where we found them.
I mean, this might just be me. Personally speaking, I’ve never cared for slice of life stories, and prefer things moving towards a central plot. As such, Among the Living feels like a mixed bag. I loved the worldbuilding, characters, and how much certain parts made me think/evaluate things. But the lack of driving plot focus and any major zombie action sequences could make it a harder sell for some.