FILM REVIEW: LIVING SPACE (MONSTER FEST TRAVELING SIDESHOW)
*THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS*
LIVING SPACE is a 2018 Australian independent film, which had its world premiere in Sydney recently as part of the MONSTER FEST TRAVELING SIDESHOW. An impressive breakout film for director Steven Spiel, LIVING SPACE pays homage to modern horror film tropes while still pulling off something fresh and exciting.
American couple Brad (Leigh Scully) and Ashley (Georgia Chara) are traveling through Germany when their car suddenly breaks down. After finding a dead body they seek help in a house, however the house is haunted by the ghost of a Nazi SS Officer and his family.
From the beginning, LIVING SPACE horrifies you with footage of Nazi Germany. The name of this film is a play on words as living space not only refers to the haunted house but also refers to the Nazi doctrine of ‘Lebenstraum’ which was the justifying reason for Nazis to invade many other European countries in WWII.
The thing about this film that separates it from other supernatural slashers is that we soon realize this is not going to be a straightforward narrative- Brad and Ashley are stuck in a time loop of torture! Each cycle grislier than the next.
Non-linear plots are a bold move in film, and a bit of a gamble really. The risk is that this unique plot device often comes at the expense of important things in a film’s narrative such as character development, which I felt the film lacked. LIVING SPACE is an ambitious film but I feel it achieves what it set out to do. It puts an emphasis on the supernatural and violent aspects of the film rather than trying to tie up loose ends or explain the reasons behind the time loop and this worked in its favor.
Filmed in Geelong , a town southwest of Melbourne, I was impressed with how well the scene was set. Had I not had previous knowledge to the contrary, I would undoubtedly have assumed this was actually shot in Germany itself. That being said, the American accents didn’t come off so seamlessly. While it was obviously going for the quintessential 90’s slasher American couple, Australians are great at backpacking too and I feel the film would have come out more genuine if the actors spoke in their native accents. Then again, this quirk may help LIVING SPACE reach out to American audiences better and I am all for indie films getting the recognition they deserve.
What I did like about the film, whether intended or not, was that it was an exploration on the cyclical abuse of women and systematic misogyny. The seemingly unending attacks on the couple are triggered by Brad calling Ashley a whore which turns out to be the SS Officer’s favorite word when abusing his wife. Ashley’s bad feelings of deja-vu, in conjunction with Brad’s repeated instruction to go into the house gives us a whole other level of horror that is purely psychological.
LIVING SPACE makes good use of its practical effects with the gore being a stand out feature in the film. Sequences of slicing and dicing are memorable in their originality and creativity. The definite image that sticks in my head was a ‘human swastika’ which I think was intended to sear itself into the viewers mind. If that is something that intrigues you, LIVING SPACE won’t disappoint your penchant for gruesome deaths.
Right from its harsh opening sequence, LIVING SPACE lets the audience know they’re in for a wild, nightmarish ride. To compare it to two other great Australian horror films, LIVING SPACE is WOLF CREEK meets TRIANGLE. The film both celebrates horror clichés and subverts them showing that writer/ director Spiel has a great knowledge of the genre. It will be exciting to see what his next project entails.
2.5 out of 5 tombstones
” LIVING SPACE pays homage to modern horror tropes while still pulling off something fresh and exciting”