The new Australian horror film Living Space features Australian actors speaking with American accents in a German setting, in a supernatural tale of mysterious goings-on in a home that once housed a Nazi officer and his family. Writer/director Steven Speil’s international approach works effectively and the film looks terrific, though it relies heavily on genre tropes.
Ashley (Georgia Chara) and Brad (Leigh Scully) are a young American couple vacationing in Germany. After a row, the two set off uneasily on a car trip to a remote castle. When their car breaks down, a young woman bangs on the back of the car before dying. The couple decide to walk for help and find a house. This sets into play a series of horrific events that include grisly murders, scenes of torture and rather graphic mutilations, and a human swastika. Add to that a Nazi spectre and a series of time loops, and the stage is set.
Speil has a fantastic eye for creating wonderful shots, and Branco Grabovac’s cinematography is splendid. Fans of gruesome scare fare should find plenty to like here, with the special effects and makeup departments doing super work.
Living Space looks fantastic, but falls short in the originality department. Though the film does offer some interesting new elements and a well-realized parallel theme on the treatment of women in the past and now by significant others, it also relies heavily on genre tropes, jump scares, and startling noises. The time loop telegraphs its outcome fairly early on, as well.
Chara gives a fine performance as the confused, endangered heroine, and Scully is solid as her equally mystified lover. Their characters, however, aren’t given much background other than their arguments that begin the film, so once they are in peril, there isn’t a lot of reason to root for them, other than knowing they are the protagonists. The character of the evil Nazi officer (Andy McPhee) is given plenty of background information, though, and it is grim stuff, to be sure.
Speil has turned out an effective debut effort with strong mise en scéne. Living Space offers plentiful shocks and starts, and it is a promising calling card for an interesting new horror talent.