The Living Image

The Living

By Chuck Foster | October 28, 2022

BROOKLYN HORROR FILM FESTIVAL 2022 REVIEW! Vampires have it rough. They are constantly surrounded by food but forced to live in our society, which dictates that killing each other to drink blood is a bad thing. Still, those urges linger, and the hunger pangs can be too much. The responsible vampire will seek help, as writer-director Cleo Handler depicts in the short film The Living.

Brad Dourif plays Vlad, a “recovering” vampire whose urges have returned. He has a new victim in sight, and he’s trying hard, but it’s tough this time. Through Vlad’s talk with the therapist (Cleo Handler), we learn his history. He’s not a bad guy; he just got caught up in something he shouldn’t have way back when and now struggles with it every day. Eventually, the session turns to discussing family. He has an estranged daughter. Ultimately, the decision has to be made. Should Vlad reach out, or shouldn’t he?

Handler puts us right there, right in that therapy session, right in Vlad’s brain. And who better to make that come alive than Dourif, whose struggles gained notoriety over the years? The Living is about him. No, he’s not really a vampire, but addiction is addiction, and an addict is an addict. The filmmaker hones in on that to give us an honest metaphor that resonates beyond mere genre conventions. This is a real therapy session. The addiction may be a little out there, but it’s relatable because we all know somebody.

“…a ‘recovering’ vampire whose urges have returned. He has a new victim in sight…”

For his part, Dourif completely sells it. He is this guy, again, not an actual vampire, but an addict certainly knows an addict, and it’s not a far stretch. He’s vulnerable, revealing his desires, but still slightly guarded. After all, you never entirely give the game away as an addict. When the teeth come out, though, he’s frightening. He’s that Exorcist III evil again, and it is quite spectacular… for a moment.

Ultimately, this is one of those outside-the-coffin vampire stories that adhere to the accepted lore while updating the setting. This isn’t your tired stuffy Anne Rice Southern Gothic. This is Jean Rollin colliding with Near Dark to create a smart, concise glimpse into the inner turmoil of that person we all know. That relatability is precisely what makes this so captivating.

Addiction is a curious animal. One we all know all too well. Some of us drink coffee, others shoot heroin, while a few are serial killers. Whether it’s caffeine, cocaine, opiates, sex, religion, or murder, the compulsion is the same. The war is fought battle by battle, day by day. Unfortunately, some of us are just better at tapping into that inner strength. Cleo Handler’s The Living reminds us how.

The Living screened at the 2022 Brooklyn Horror Film Festival.

The Living (2022)

Directed and Written: Cleo Handler

Starring: Brad Dourif, Cherie Chalouhi, Cleo Handler, etc.

Movie score: 8/10

The Living Image

"…Dourif completely sells it."

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