[Review] AMONG THEM – an exhilarating spiral into madness

Don’t make any plan for the immediate future after watching Among Them. You will be too busy thinking about everything you saw — or thought you saw — happening in the movie to be able to handle anything else. You may even want to set aside an extra 90 minutes of your time to watch it again.

Directed by Kevin James Barry (Serena and the Ratts), Among Them tells the story of a band of bank robbers and what happens when their escape plan falls apart in some truly unpredictable ways. The robbery itself was a mess — just how big a mess is revealed as the film plays out — but two of the bad guys, Harry (Jonathan Thomas) and Mick (Dan Liebman), make it to the rendezvous point, a beachfront motel in the middle of winter with a blizzard about to hit. As a remote location where they won’t get noticed, it makes sense, until they look in the trunk of their getaway car and find Sydney (Evalena Marie), a young woman they have never seen before, bound and gagged inside.

After that, all bets are off as the characters, and the audience, start an exhilarating spiral into madness.

It starts with small things, like weird images seen — or imagined — in a mirror reflection or between the blinks of their eyes. The images stay longer and longer, slowly beginning to interact with the three motel room occupants. First, they stay on the periphery, sometimes just staring back at the other characters as if they are ghosts about to talk (or scream). Then they start to take on a more active role in their interactions with our heroes.

Barry, who also edited the film, does a masterful job of putting together the real and imagined in some very unique, yet always believable ways. A lot of filmmakers use quick editing cuts and inserts of shocking or gruesome images to jolt their audience, but they never have the story (or talent) to make them add up to anything meaningful to the story. Barry does and he pulls it off with style.

Although Barry seems to have a wonderful bag of post-production tricks to work with (the music and sound in Among Them are very effective) a director can only make use of them if he has the raw material to work from, especially in terms of the actors. They need to not only deliver fully developed characters to the story, but, in the case of Among Them have to make some seriously twisted stuff look not just believable, but real. And the three leads in this cast really get the job done.

As the bank robbers, Thomas and Liebman are as mismatched a pair as you can imagine. One is tall and one is short. One is fair and one is dark. One likes to relax by reading the Bible. One relaxes by calling a hooker to come to the hotel room. Despite their differences, though, they make a good team. The easy way to play a pair like this would be to have them argue or bicker or act out in some way to make their differences a part of the plot. But they don’t. For the most part, they support each other, no easy task given what happens to them as their reality starts to unravel, and it’s refreshing to watch them pull it off.

Sydney, the girl in the trunk, is the real wild card of their plan, and of the movie, and watching Marie play the part is thrilling. From the start, she gives us a character that refuses to play the victim despite how she physically enters the film. She also doesn’t fall down the romantic rabbit hole by falling for one of the guys and pitting him against the other. Instead, she makes herself part of the team, which again plays against expectations in an exciting way.

The most challenging part of watching Among Them takes place at the end when you have to start sifting through all that you’ve seen and felt watching the film to decide what was real and what wasn’t, what actually happened, and, if it did, who did it. That isn’t to imply that the ending isn’t completely satisfying because it really is. The ending doesn’t make you anxious or upset that the pieces don’t all fall into place to form a convenient picture. It just makes you curious to go back and watch it again to see what you can find.

  • John Black, Among Them
John Black
John Black still remembers his first horror movie, sneaking in to a double-feature of Horror House with Frankie Avalon and a Boris Karloff film he can’t remember the name of but will always remember for giving him his first glimpse of cinematic nudity as one of the actresses moved from the bed to the door without putting on any underwear! (Fond family memory: That glimpse, when discovered by his parents, cased John’s mom to call the theater and yelling at the manager for letting her son see ‘such filth’.) Luckily, John was more impressed by the blood and horror than the bare haunches and quickly became a devotee of the genre.

John has been a professional movie reviewer since 1987, when his first review – of a Robert De Niro film called Angel Heart – appeared in the entertainment section of The Cape Codder newspaper. He’s been writing about film ever since, primarily now as the entertainment editor at Boston Event Guide. Hardly a day goes by when he doesn’t watch at least one movie, which is how he thinks life was meant to be.