No One Lives
May 10, 2013
Luke Evans as Driver
Adelaide Clemens as Emma
Lee Tergesen as Hoag
Derek Magyar as Flynn
America Olivo as Tamara
No One Lives opens with much potential and a brooding tone of menace only to lurch into standard “stalk and kill” territory with a group of characters you are never given a reason to care about in the first place.
Hopefully you know the name Ryuhei Kitamura. In 2000 Kitamura released a movie best described as his Evil Dead, a nifty little action/horror flick called Versus. It featured the Yakuza, zombies, gunplay, swords, all kinds of awesome-looking imagery and action. He followed it up pretty successfully with the likes of Alive, Aragami and Azumi before directing what was basically the giant monster version ofThe Avengers – Godzilla Final Wars. Things slowed down for him after that and it was with some surprise I saw that he directed the Clive Barker adaptation Midnight Meat Train starring a pre-Hangover Bradley Cooper. Not a classic by any means it is still a lot of fun including a wonderful cameo from Ted Raimi. It is odd that here we are again with a director better known for his action making another modestly budgeted horror movie. Can No One Lives rise above the rest of it’s ilk or is this director’s talents better suited elsewhere?
A young woman runs through a forest. Screaming and clearly terrified for her life her attempt to flee is is thwarted by a rope trap, dragging her up into a tree and leaving her helpless. That young woman is Emma (Adelaide Clemens – Silent Hill: Revelation) a wealthy heiress that has been reported as missing and was able to scratch a message into that tree to alert authorities she was still alive. We are next introduced to the character known only as Driver (Luke Evans) and his partner Betty (Laura Ramsey – The Ruins). They are driving across country to make a new start, towing a trailer of belongings with them. They have an oddly ambiguous relationship though they do end up in bed together in their pokey motel room, Driver paying special attention to a scar Betty has above her left hip. It’s obvious almost immediately that there’s something off about Driver, his cold demeanor and emotional distance suggests a lot more going on here than we’re privy to.
While enjoying dinner in a local bar-restaurant Driver and Betty run afoul of Flynn (Derek Magyar –Train) who is part of a gang whose recent failed burglary attempt ended in failure when Flynn murdered the family. Flynn attempts to provoke Driver but gang boss Hoag (Lee Tergesen – The Collection) drags Flynn out of the situation and the gang leaves. Later that night however Flynn shows he isn’t finished with Flynn and Betty, running them off the road later that night. Leaving the couple handcuffed under the watch of Ethan, Flynn takes the car and trailer to the gang’s base of operations hoping to make up for him botching their earlier burglary attempt. Unfortunately this only worsens the gang’s fortunes as Flynn finds…. Yes, who else but missing heiress Emma helplessly bound and gagged and hidden in Driver’s car. Just who is Driver, what does he want with this girl and will any of them live to tell the tale? The title suggests perhaps not.
Without giving away too much, this is one of those “bad people screw with the wrong guy and have the tables turned on them” – type movies. All of the twists and turns are gotten out of the way fairly quickly and it becomes obvious very fast that not only is Driver a very enthusiastic murderer but a very resourceful and well-equipped one to boot. He has all sorts of weapons and remote controlled gadgets and stuff hidden away in his trailer and he’s not afraid to use them This does result in some crazy scenes of violence and gore, my favorite being how he infiltrates the crooks’ lair (there’s a reason they cast the very large Brodus Clay for his role, yuck). Having said that, despite the occasional quip from Driver this film falls into the “stalk and kill” style very quickly with only glimpses of a character who might have more to him than just a dude who lives kidnapping and murdering people for fun. The significance of Betty’s scar comes up but is done so haphazardly it’s pretty clear this was not a particularly well-constructed script. Unfortunately without the killer sufficiently fleshed out and kidnapee Emma having little to do other than scream and tell everybody that they’re going to die, the stakes just aren’t that high.
The film has little in the way of suspense because we’re not really given any reason to care about what happens to these people. The movie introduces them as burglars, one of them a simmering psychopath who murders a whole family in cold blood and then we’re supposed to root for them? Please. Driver is perhaps a vaguely interesting when the script allows but he’s still a kidnapper and serial killer and he’s not really fleshed out enough to be a memorable character. Gorehounds who are just there for the kills will have fun, there are some suitably grisly deaths and copious amounts of blood. Also in the film’s favor is that it’s 87 minutes long with credits so No One Livesis certainly never in any danger of overstaying its welcome.
No One Lives is your basic stalk and kill slasher with loftier aspirations to be something more but is let down by an inconsistent script and perhaps by a director who really should be making action movies rather than murky horror b-flicks. It certainly sets up a sequel, perhaps trying to make Driver something like Josh Hartnett’s character The Salesman from Sin City, perhaps a less mundane script would make Drive a more satisfying anti-hero. If you desperately need to satisfy your big screen bloodlust weekend you can certainly do a lot worse than No One Lives but you might leave thinking that it really should have been better.