05th Aug2013

‘No One Lives’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Luke Evans, Adelaide Clemens, Lee Tergesen, Derek Magyar, Beau Knapp, America Olivo, Lindsey Shaw, Brodus Clay, Gary Grubbs | Written by David Cohen | Directed by Ryuhei Kitamura

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Ryuhei Kitamura’s second American film (his first was the Vinnie Jones starrer The Midnight Meat Train), No One Lives harks back to his early work – the Super 8 short Down to Hell and his most famous flick Versus – putting strangers together in a pitched battle against a common enemy.

The film starts out very much along the typical backwoods/hillbilly slant, as a gang of robbers screw up their latest mansion heist and, to make up for their loses, kidnap a couple in a car instead. It looks as though we’re seemingly headed down the torture route, with our villains set to get the information they need from the couple by any means necessary. However Kitamura flips the script and what the robbers, and the audience, don’t realise is that driver is not exactly the shy retiring type – he’s actually a complete psychopath having, months earlier, killed fourteen students and kidnapped another, his victim locked up in the trunk of the very car the robbers have stolen! What comes next is a taut, gore-laden game of cat-and-mouse as psycho takes on psycho(s)…

No One Lives definitely marks a return to form for Ryuhei Kitamura. Right from the get-go there’s a strange air about the film, an edge if you will, that is at the same time both unsettling and intriguing. It’s this atmosphere which hooks the audience in – that is until a stunning scene in which Evans’ psycho climbs out from inside the body of one of the gang. From then on you know this is not going to be anything but a complete bloodbath and the film jumps from intriguing to balls-to-the-wall exciting!

If Kitamura is a director on form, then Evans is most certainly an actor on form. Having only seen Evans in good-guy roles in films such as The Three Musketeers, Immortals and Clash of the Titans, it was a revelation to see him channel his dark side as the quiet and unassuming serial killer. Evans is in fact key to the films success, foregoing your typical “crazed psycho” OTT performance for a restrained characterisation that reminded me a lot of the quiet mania Anthony Perkins brought to his role as Norman Bates in Hitchcock’s Psycho. Besides Evans, it’s America Olivio – probably best remembered by horror fans as the dick snapping killer of Neighbor – who shines, bringing a strength to her character that’s more typically found in the heroic final girl of horror, not a “villain” (though given Evans’ character no one in the film can really be called hero or villain – Kitamura self-assuredly paints this film with many shades of grey).

Blurring the line between action film and horror, No One Lives is very much of the B-movie mold, blending elements of exploitation movie and action film to perfection (and I do mean perfection). It is also that very rare breed of horror film, in so much as it successfully captures all that is great about the genre in a fast-moving, well-paced films that reminds me of the great works of Eric Red – in particular his classic The Hitcher, with Evans’ unnamed psycho very much in the mold of Rutger Hauer’s; and his dark, twisted relationship with his victim Emma (Clemens) recalling that between Hauer and C. Thomas Howell. And I don’t think there’s any greater praise I can give Kitamura’s film than that.

***** 5/5

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