Alright, so…Remember HAPPY DEATH DAY? A movie that took a pretty grim premise and actually managed to make it almost “fun” to watch? Well, what happens if you take the ‘fun’ out of it, switch the scenario to an entirely different country, and then let it play out in a totally different way? One possibility is writer/director STEVEN SPIEL’S LIVING SPACE, and it most certainly isn’t the kind of place you’d want to live forever…not that you’d even have a choice!
Poor Brad and Ashley, (LEIGH SCULLY and GEORGIA CHARA). On vacation in rural Germany, they’re not having such a good time. In fact, they’re arguing from the very beginning. On the way to visit the famous Castle Neuschwanstein, the shooting location for such iconic films as CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG and THE GREAT ESCAPE, they get lost, of course. Or should we say, Brad gets them lost. But if they thought the argument they had before, plus this new development all adds up to the Vacation From Hell…well, they have no idea what Hell is…YET.
As they’re stopping to get their bearings, Brad hears a noise near the back of the car. He goes out to investigate…and finds the body of a dead girl outside. He freaks out, of course, as anyone would, but it takes Ash to bring him back to his senses. Since there’s really nothing else they can do, they decide to go to a nearby house to see if there’s a phone they can use to call for help. And as usual, that plan goes south pretty fast, as it does in these movies.
They find the house is filled with pictures and old Nazi artifacts…including a dagger, dripping with fresh blood. Oh, but things get weirder still. Ash keeps having strange visions – flashes of images of her and Brad, the house and some really horrible shit that happens to them. Although it hasn’t happened yet.
It doesn’t take too long to guess that Brad and Ashley are stuck in some kind of a time loop, yes, just like in HAPPY DEATH DAY. The difference here is that there doesn’t seem to be any way out of their predicament, with changes in the timeline of events, no matter how drastic, still resulting in the same horrific outcome. Can they…WILL they find a way out of it? Don’t expect me to tell you here!
Even with the novelty of setting it in Germany’s heartland, I wish I could say that it’s something we haven’t seen before, but I can’t. Between HAPPY DEATH DAY and the French extreme horror film FRONTIER(S), we most definitely have. Spiel still manages to pull off the entire affair with maximum creepiness, and thanks to the performances of Scully and Chara, we do care about the lead characters…at least I did about her character of Ashley. I found Brad to be pretty useless in any and every timeline. Maybe the poor girl should’ve ditched him for Vin Diesel before making this ill-fated trip. Although I’m not altogether sure that even Vin could have bested the disgustingly evil spectre of the SS officer (ANDY MCPHEE from WOLF CREEK), who dominates the rest of the ghosts that inhabit the house, and everything that happened within it (which is happening still).
The real “stars” of note here are DAS PATTERSON’S production design, the cinematography by BRANCO GRABOVAC and the soundwork by BENNI KNOP. The sheer creepiness of the house’s atmosphere is thanks in HUGE part to their combined efforts. And a shout-out most definitely needs to go out to STEVEN BOYLE and his effects team. The practicals here are very well done, and particularly brutal in more than a few cases, including a shot of someone who’s been tortured in a way that should provide plenty of nightmare fuel.
I’d like to say I highly recommend this, since it takes the “creaky old haunted house” scenario and tries to freshen it up with a few extra twists on the tropes. However, with some other very imaginative films that have already “been-there, done-that” and done it just a smidge better, it won’t cause very many die-hard scare fans to jump higher than it takes to reach the popcorn.
For the serviceable performances and the great technical work, LIVING SPACE gets two-and-a-half out of five stars from me. And should you get the urge to compare this afterward with another screening of HAPPY DEATH DAY, I’d say give yourself over to absolute pleasure…or something close to it.