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Aux Yeux des Vivants (Fantasia Review)

Aux Yeux des Vivants (Fantasia Review)
07.31.2014by: Chris Bumbray
4 10

PLOT: Three French schoolboys cut class to go explore an abandoned, remote movie studio. To their horror, they discover that it’s not quite as abandoned as they thought.

REVIEW: Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury made quite a splash in the horror community a few years ago with their debut, INSIDE, as well as the follow-up LIVID. Having not seen either, I can’t say as to whether or not AUX YEUX DES VIVANTS (with the unofficial English title being AMONG THE LIVING) is a step in the right direction or wrong. That said, to me AUX YEUX DES VIVANTS, while skillfully made, was nothing particularly special, and a fairly dull slasher flick.

The program notes at the Fantasia Film Festival called this a throwback to eighties horror, with this being a kind of hardcore version of STAND BY ME, and sure – the similarities are there. At the core of the film are three French kids falling into the typical screen kid categories: the tough guy, the nerd, and the guy in the middle (who’s obviously the lead). All three kids (Théo Fernandez, Zacharie Chasseriaud, & Damien Ferdel) are fine, but their relationships are underdeveloped, with us never really getting sold on the camaraderie or why the three would be friends in the first place. This is essential if you’re doing a movie about children, a lesson well-learned by all the classics of the genre like the aforementioned STAND BY ME, THE GOONIES and SUPER 8.

While about kids, AUX YEUX DES VIVANTS certainly isn’t for kids, with this being an especially gory entry, despite the directors holding back on most of the carnage until the last twenty minutes. It does have an especially violent teaser, where BETTY BLUE’s Béatrice Dalle goes crazy attacking her boorish husband (Francis Renaud) and slicing open her womb, the result of her children being affected by some kind of “Agent Orange”-style sickness her hubby brought home from the army. Both he and her deformed son survive the attack, and set up shop in the abandoned studio, bringing us to the premise, which is that these kids are being picked-off by the now grown deformed son.

One of the worst decisions by Bustillo and Maury was to split up the kids after the first forty minutes, following them as they separately come face-to-face with the deformed killer, with the focus being on the resourceful Victor – played by Fernandez – and his parents. At this point it degenerates into a routine slasher flick, with everyone making all the classic horror mistakes, such as running “upstairs” rather than fleeing the house, or ignoring the killer after you’ve temporarily stopped him rather than restraining him somehow or finishing him off. AUX YEUX DES VIVANTS also has to have the two dumbest screen cops in history, with them randomly shooting off their guns every chance they get, frequently killing or maiming innocents.

Probably the only area AUX YEUX DES VIVANTS really excels in is the gore department, with some of the kills being exceedingly gruesome, such as one that gives a whole new meaning to the term “foot in mouth”. This no doubt came as a relief to the Fantasia audience, who were likely getting frustrated by Bustillo and Maury constantly cutting away whenever something gruesome was about to happen. Turns out, they were just saving their buckets of gore for the finale.

It’s too bad AUX YEUX DES VIVANTS was such a weak film as there have been some really interesting horror movies coming out of France lately, and the audience at Fantasia was clearly ready to embrace this one. While they still seemed to have a decent time with it, it can’t be denied this is one of the real disappointments of the festival. It’s not especially bad – just mediocre.

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