‘No One Lives’ Hits Cinematic Ground with Bloody Thud

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HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 1.5/5.0
Rating: 1.5/5.0

CHICAGO – Ryuhei Kitamura’s “No One Lives” starts off with enough grit and style that a good horror fan is likely to get their hopes up at the potential fun to come. And so the crash is even greater when that same horror fan realizes that “No One Lives” is going absolutely nowhere interesting and that the first act is its best. Kitamura has style (although it is MUCH better utilized in the underrated “Midnight Meat Train” and cult hit “Versus”) and the cast isn’t bad but the script is simply awful and the movie exists for no other reason than to highlight some nifty makeup horror effects. You can do much better.

As I mentioned, the set-up is pretty great. A couple is on a road trip. Never named but referred to as Driver (Luke Evans) in the credits, the male half of this pair is a mysterious type and the couple’s melancholy dynamic hints at another woman and trouble they’ve left behind. While eating at a middle-of-nowhere establishment, Driver and his gal cross paths with a gang of criminals led by Hoag (Lee Tergesen) and Flynn (Derek Magyar), a pair of bickering alpha males already upset by a recent robbery turned bloody. After a tense encounter, everyone appears to go on their way.

No One Lives
No One Lives
Photo credit: Anchor Bay

While most of Hoag’s gang, which includes Tamara (America Olivo), Denny (Beau Knapp), Amber (Lindsey Shaw), and Ethan (Brodus Clay), retires to their cabin in the woods, the aggressive Flynn goes after Driver and his pretty girl. He runs them off the road, kidnapping the pair and stealing their car. He thinks he’s going to torture the travelers for their ATM pin numbers, bank account info, etc. He thinks wrong. Before you know it, Driver has escaped and murdered Ethan, heading out to get the rest of Hoag’s gang.

There’s a complication. As Flynn is investigating his new ride, he finds a box in the trunk with airholes in it. The box holds Emma (Adelaide Clemens), a wealthy girl who has been missing for months after a brutal murder at her home. It turns out that Driver is a total psychopath. He has kidnapped Emma, held her for years, and brutally killed dozens of people. He’s EXACTLY the wrong person to cross and he’s going to annihilate Hoag’s gang in increasingly gory ways.

No One Lives
No One Lives
Photo credit: Anchor Bay

There’s great potential in a set-up of bad guys messing with a much-worse guy. “No One Lives” could have been a tense, action-packed, one-location piece a la some of John Carpenter’s best work or even “The Raid.” It doesn’t help that we have little to no one to root for since the film is about one sociopath killing a bunch of bad guys but that wouldn’t have mattered if “No One Lives” was well-structured. It’s not. It’s a mess of a film in terms of location, tension, and actual dread. The film lurches from one kill to another with no sense of setting or character other than the heavy lifting done by the talented Adelaide Clemens (recently seen in “Parade’s End” and “Rectify”). She does her best but she’s been given such a silly, ridiculous cliché of a character that she can’t add a third dimension to it. And when Kitamura’s film stunningly grinds to a halt in a hotel room as Emma and her remaining captors try to get dramatic, it really kills any chance it may have had of working.

To be fair, some of the makeup work in “No One Lives,” such as when Driver emerges from an actual body or a shotgun blast to the head, is pretty impressive. And those kind of extreme scenes of violence, along with hilarious B-movie lines like “If I wanted to hear from an asshole, I’d rip you a new one,” hint at the over-the-top fun that “No One Lives” could have been with a bit more finetuning. The worst sin of “No One Lives” is the worst sin a horror movie can commit – it’s boring enough that it’s dead on arrival.

“No One Lives” stars Luke Evans, Adelaide Clemens, Lee Tergesen, Derek Magyar, America Olivo, Beau Knapp, Lindsey Shaw, and Brodus Clay. It was written by David Cohen and directed by Ryuhei Kitamura. It will be released on May 10, 2013.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

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