TIFF Review: No One Lives

No One Lives (2012, directed by Ryuhei Kitamura)

Kitamura isn't exactly the most subtle of filmmakers, granted, but when the demented brain behind 2001's Versus unleashes a film on you called No One Lives, you pretty much get locked into certain expectations: a high body count, gruesome kills, and probably a certain amount of cheekiness with regard to the whole enterprise.

I am happy to report that No One Lives meets all those expectations in spades.

The film opens with a couple moving to a new city, hauling a trailer behind their car and looking for a place to stop for the night. There's something off about their relationship though, something disconcerting that you can't quite put your finger on. When they cross paths with a gang of robbers whose mad-dog member just killed a couple of people during a heist gone wrong, bad things happening seem pretty much inevitable. How bad though, and who they happen to... well, that would be telling.

This is a movie you need to have some faith in. I'm not going to mince words: the dialogue in No One Lives is stilted, awkward and cringe-worthy. Even actors who are known to have some pretty decent chops, such as Luke Evans and Lee Tergesen, aren't able to do anything with it. Through the first 10-15 minutes of the film you're going to wonder what the hell you've gotten yourself into. Then The Scene happens, and all that doubt will disappear and you'll know exactly what you've gotten yourself into - a film that is genuflecting at the altar of '70s horror, both American and Italian. The Scene is... I can't even. Suffice it to say there's a couple of kills that kick the plot into gear, and then a thing happens that is so perfectly over-the-top and awesome and gross and spectacular that it just sweeps you along in its bloody wake. You can't prepare yourself for The Scene, and you wouldn't want to. If anyone tries to spoil it for you just shoot them in the face, for the good of all humanity.

The rest of the movie is a cat and mouse game, if the cat and mouse are both heavily armed and deeply disturbed sadists. None of the remaining violence and mayhem rises quite to the level of The Scene, but it doesn't need to. There are guns and explosions and wood chippers and shower curtains a-plenty for the rest of the cast to get massacred with, and there's a tremendous slow reveal in flashback of just how sick the sickest of the sickos in this movie really is that adds the perfect depraved accents to the proceedings. And just for fun, No One Lives also features the back half of one of the greatest synchronicities/links in Midnight Madness history: one night after Seven Psychopaths has as a not-insignificant plot point multiple slashed throats, No One Lives sees said sickest of the sickos (say that five times fast...) giving a lesson in how to keep someone alive after their throat's been slashed.

No One Lives is pure, unashamed modern grindhouse, with all that that implies. Don't say you weren't warned.

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