No Way to Live 2017
An interracial teenage couple in the 1950's American South, rob and steal to escape their oppressive town, but when violence erupts they are forced to confront their own dark secrets.
Nick Chakwin and David Guglielmo
Nick Chakwin and David Guglielmo
Freya Tingley, Tom Williamson, and Paul Rae
The first thing a large proportion of today’s horror-viewing audience will say is, “No Way to Live isn’t a horror movie”; and they might be right. What can’t be denied, however, is that the film, co-written and directed by Nick Chakwin and David Guglielmo, resonates with echoes of Alfred Hitchcock and the Cohen Brothers, and more than just a dash of David Lynch in the mix. No Way to Live delivers high-intensity suspense with so many twists there’s simply no way to predict where it will end; you will sense from the get-go, however, that this story is going to some dark places.
No Way to Live is a reinvigoration of slow-burn delivery, where events aren’t milked; instead, we see important moments as they happen, then jump directly to the next scene of import. As opposed to the standard slow burn that delays a terrifying conclusion through character exposition or elaborate scenes created for the sole purpose of establishing mood, the audience knows every frame and word is important. There’s no risk of the viewer tuning out or wasting time on unnecessary conjectures. No Way to Live is a lean yet powerful, taking all the time necessary to deliver its messages while still maintaining impeccable pacing that will keep fans of complex and nuanced storytelling riveted.
Official Synopsis: An interracial teenage couple in the 1950’s American South, rob and steal to escape their oppressive town, but when violence erupts they are forced to confront their own dark secrets.
No Way to Live presents a well-trod Romeo and Juliet scenario, but it doesn’t take long for us to suspect there’s something devious lurking just below the surface. As the film progresses, our worst suspicions are realized, but this is just Step One in a multi-tiered approach to pulling the rug out from under us. No Way to Live toys with the very concepts of heroes and heroines, victims and saviors; ultimately, viewers may debate whether the film even has a protagonist (it certainly doesn’t in the traditional sense). Like a character stepping into a gator-trap, No Way to Live is full of shocks that come out of nowhere and hit with visceral power.
The something almost exaggerated about the tone and delivery of the dialog in No Way to Live; it gives the film a live-production sort of feel, as though the actors are projecting to those seated at the back of a playhouse. This deliberateness serves to lull us in a way; young couple Nora and Monty (played by Freya Tingley and Tom Williamson respectively) seem so naïve we hardly suspect their still waters run so deep—and dark. While we certainly sense Nora is being secretive/manipulative from the get-go, her motivations and the lengths she’s willing to go to achieve her goals are staggering. For the first half of the film, we see the leads as impulsive and enamored; we find ourselves hoping things work out for them, although we know things won’t.
No Way to Live is 100% character driven; the special FX are used sparingly, which makes them extremely effective. Acts of violence are portrayed with brutal realism that will stick with you long after the credits roll.
The success of Jordan Peele’s Get Out has brought socially relevant horror movies to the forefront of the genre landscape, and No Way to Live is likewise ripe with racial subtext. The major difference, though, is that this film takes place in the 1950s, an era when an inter-racial relationship was more than just taboo—it could be downright fatal. No Way to Live takes place in the south no less (Texas) making these issues especially harrowing. The danger of the young lovers’ relationship is legitimately dangerous, and the major source of suspense for the first 2 acts of the film. I found it impossible to breathe just waiting for Nora to get into Monty’s car on the night of their escape; a teenager tiptoeing through the night carried as much (or more) suspense as any supernatural creeper or violent slasher flick.
No Way to Live is already available on Blu-ray/DVD and is available on iTunes and Amazon as of today. The film is an anomaly in today’s cinematic universe, not just as it relates to horror, but all genres. It’s almost as though the film was produced in a parallel universe, one that’s extremely similar to our own, yet somehow completely out of time. Hence, the David Lynch reference I made in the introduction of this review.
Bottom Line: No Way to Live will thrill fans of Southern Gothic, noir, retro thrillers in the vein of Vertigo, Barton Fink, and In Cold Blood, as well as anyone interested in socially relevant cinema and historical horror. Gorehounds won’t consider it a horror movie at all, but those with open minds will absorb plenty of disturbing and compelling contact. You’ve never seen a slow burn with this much sizzle!