TIFF 2012 – No One Lives Review (Matt Hodgson)

Photo from http://www.tiff.net

No One Lives (2012)

Starring Luke Evans, Adelaide Clemens, Derek Magyar, Beau Knapp, America Olivo, Lee Tergesen, Lindsey Shaw,and George Murdoch

Directed by Ryûhei Kitamura

For the third night of Midnight Madness (MM), the midnight programme at the Toronto International Film Festival, I was hoping to be treated to a taut and terrifying home invasion style movie, as Kitamura is a MM veteran, and the title of his latest project promises something that few horror movies can actually deliver on – zero survivors. The theatre loaded smoothly, and the movie started on time. As the lights dimmed I was uncomfortably shifting around in my seat with nervous energy as I eagerly anticipated the opening scene of No One Lives.

The story is a simple one: two travellers are making their way across a relatively deserted highway in America. We’re not sure what their destination is,  but it’s clear that their relationship has seen better days; something is driving them apart. The man, played by Evans, is the picture of stoicism and emanates a no-nonsense attitude. On the other hand, his female companion simply seems tired, both mentally and physically. Through an ill-fated stop at a roadside diner the couple run into a group of dangerous criminals who are the modern day equivalent of highwaymen. But what starts as a typical ‘bad guys tie the good guys up and torture them’ movie is quickly spun on its head thanks to a refreshing premise that I won’t ruin here. What follows is a very bloody movie, with plenty of one liners, a high body count, and an intense finish.

Based on the very short description I thought that No One Lives sounded very similar to last year’s You’re Next, which was a wild success with the MM crowd. Add to this similarity the fact that Kitamura is a veteran filmmaker and I thought it would be a guaranteed great night at the movies. While Kitamura definitely has his filmmaking talent on display, the script and acting don’t do him any favours. From the opening scene the dialogue feels very awkward and uninspired. This is surely a combination of both the writing and the acting, but the source material didn’t give the actors a lot to work with. Also, the sound is mixed in such a way that some of the actors are often inaudible. It was hard not to be frustrated. However, the most frustrating thing about No One Lives is that it could have been such beautiful trash if the writer had dived right in with that intention.

There are moments in the script that are absolutely hilarious for their absurdity. For example, one of the characters sees a bloody knife protruding from a tire or a wall, her line: ‘something’s wrong here’ (or something along those lines). Also, I don’t think I will ever forget the perfectly ridiculous ‘Nobody kills Ethan!’ However, on other occasions it seems like the dialogue is bad, but unintentionally so. That said, this was still a script and ultimately a movie that was perfect for the MM crowd.

Despite my problems with the script there were plenty of moments in No One Lives that had the crowd riled up, and for good reason. Some very creative kills and moments of bloody carnage were often on display and the MM crowd has a reputation for enjoying this type of fare. The fact that it wasn’t a serious film made the onscreen carnage enjoyable rather than frightening. Although Dredd 3D and Seven Psychopaths each had their fair share of carnage, I think No One Lives finally quenched the bloodlust of the crowd.

I personally did not have a great time at No One Lives, but much of the crowd did by the sounds of it. Despite the writing problems when it came to the dialogue, the writer excelled at creating some hilariously trashy scenes and some very creative kills. It’s just unfortunate that No One Lives was not as ridiculous as it could have been.

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