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No One Lives

Starz / Anchor Bay // R // August 20, 2013
List Price: $30.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted August 11, 2013 | E-mail the Author
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They came home early.

This obnoxiously rich family was supposed to be on vacation for at least a few more days, but a change of plans had them pulling into the driveway while Hoag (Lee Tergesen) and the rest of his gang were still picking their palatial home clean. A hot-head named Flynn (Derek Magyar) panics and empties an entire clip into the Mercedes, slaughtering every last one of those poor bastards and making a racket that damn near every cop in the tri-state area probably heard. Hoag and company bug out early, leaving a decent chunk of their score behind.

With a do-or-die ultimatum looming over him, Flynn tries to make things right with the rest of the gang by covering the shortfall. It's just...they're holed up in the middle of nowhere; what is there to steal? As luck would have it, a couple (Luke Evans and Laura Ramsey) are passing through this speck on the map. Tensions are high between 'em from word one -- something about another woman -- and things don't get a hell of a lot better when Flynn has them strapped down in some post-apocalyptic-looking abandoned gas station. While the two of them are locked up tight, Flynn takes their car and trailer back to the gang's hideout, starts digging through their stuff in search of jewelry and cash or whatever, and...wait. There's a woman in a hidden compartment in the trunk: an heiress (Adelaide Clemens) that's been missing for the better part of a year...the lone survivor of a savage killing spree at a university a couple states over.

Flynn and the rest of these thugs think they're bad-ass motherfuckers, but this nameless driver they've kidnapped...I mean, he's not a man; he's a primal force of destruction. He's Michael Myers. He's Jason Voorhees. They've taken away what little in this world he actually gives a shit about, and...well, you've seen the title. No one lives.

So, yeah, No One Lives isn't a completely straightahead slasher. Though the movie tips its hand way too early that there's more than meets the eye with this couple that's just passing through, I'm still all for the role reversal here, casting a psychopathic murderer as the vengeful hero-type you're supposed to be rooting for. Along those same lines, you know how the whole Final Girl thing is supposed to go: you look on as a cute, wholesome, idealistic young woman is gradually terrorized into fighting for her life. Here, all of that's out of the way before the movie really even starts; anything but helpless, this kidnapped heiress has a steeled resolve to survive on her own terms from the outset, and she singlehandedly takes down the entire gang of thugs by herself when we first catch up with her, post-titles. No One Lives is unflinchingly violent and sopping with blood, and it never eases up on the throttle once all hell starts to break loose. I mean, the usual tactics with spam-in-a-cabin is to pick off the red shirts one-by-one, and it's a while before they even clue in that there's a killer in their midst. The murderer here immediately goes for a full-frontal assault, and the body count doesn't rack up in quite the order
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you probably think it will. No One Lives is also staffed by a crew that goes for practical splatter and makeup effects rather than lean on CGI, and that's pretty much always a good thing.

All of that may read like a best case scenario for a slasher, but no, not so much. Part of the premise is that Luke Evans is such an unimposing, average looking guy that you'd never guess he'd be an unstoppable killing machine. No One Lives telegraphs this "shocking" reveal from just about the beginning, so the endless setup in the first act winds up being kind of an uneventful slog. Even when this nameless driver is unmasked as a psychopath, there's just nothing about the way Luke Evans looks that sparks that visceral "oh shit...!" reaction you're supposed to get from the sight of a cinematic serial killer. The guy's just not that menacing. The spastic, dementedly imaginative visual style that director Ryuhei Kitamura has infused into so many of his other movies is lacking here. Most of the dialogue creaks and groans. No One Lives is never boring once it really gets going, but it's never really tense or suspenseful either. The movie is unrepentantly violent, and the aftermath of the kills feature some gruesome makeup effects work. Still, the attacks themselves generally fall into this middle ground where they slosh around barrel drums of the red stuff but aren't really all that gory. They're usually quick, in some way obscured, and not disturbing or visceral until you catch up with their remains a little later on. Aside from one pretty, WWE-meets-tauntaun gross-out gag, there's very little here you haven't seen before. Too much of the cast is bland and forgettable, up to and including a psychopath that's supposed to be kickstarting a horror franchise. Even Laura Ramsey, who made such an impression in The Ruins a few years back, sort of phones this one in. The only standout is Adelaide Clemens, who briefly disappoints when first introduced as a victim but is easily the best thing about No One Lives when a shitkicker looking for the right opportunity rears her head.

It's just frustrating because No One Lives has some of the right elements to make for a distinctive, memorable slasher flick, but none of that ever really comes together. A worthwhile rental for stalk-and-slash completists but too run-of-the-mill to really recommend. Rent It.

No One Lives is aiming for a '70s grindhouse aesthetic, I guess, so don't expect a drop dead
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gorgeous, reference quality Blu-ray disc or anything. The movie opts for a drab, muddy palette whenever there's any light to play with, and otherwise, it's just dark. It was shot digitally, and although that means there's no film grain to speak of, video noise adds a gritty sort of texture. The weird thing is that it feels like this noise is floating on top of the image rather than being an inherent part of it, and maybe it's just the annoying motion blur in general, but it feels like it trails whenever the camera whips around. Definition and detail are lackluster, looking more like DVD-and-a-half than a shiny, new Blu-ray disc. I'm sure most/all of that reflects the way No One Lives is supposed to look. I mean, you don't want your grimy horror flick to be polished to a gleaming sheen or whatever. Still, go in with the right expectations.

To rattle off the rest of the technical specs...? BD-25. 2.39:1. AVC.

No One Lives features a reasonably effective 24-bit, 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. Bass response is generally modest, reinforcing the score and adding a low-frequency thud to the slugfests. The score takes advantage of the rear channels pretty nicely. The surrounds also flesh out the atmospherics fairly well, and cracks of gunfire, arrows tearing through the air, and a clattering wood chipper attack from behind too. It's not remarkably immersive or anything but is adept enough just the same. No complaints about the reproduction of the dialogue either: clean, clear, and balanced well. Solid work.

No dubs, alternate mixes, or audio commentaries this time around. The only other audio options are subtitles in English (SDH) and Spanish.

  • From the Script to the Crypt (28 min.; HD): The one and
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    only extra on No One Lives is this half-hour featurette. It breezes through casting, particularly Brodus Clay's role in this WWE Studios production, as well as some of the less conventional elements of the premise. For the most part, though, "From the Script to the Crypt" focuses on the visual and visceral ends of things, especially the fight choreography and grisly make-up effects. Worth a look.

No One Lives arrives in a combo pack, so you get a DVD out of the deal too.

The Final Word
No One Lives sloshes around barrel drums of stage blood and lobs out a couple inspired twists, sure, but it never really manages to rise above a thousand other direct-to-video slashers. Passable but too mediocre to go back to for a second pass. Rent It.
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