FrightFest 2013: You’re Next, Hatchet 3, VHS 2 & More Reviewed
No One Lives
Something of a step down for Versus and Midnight Meat Train director Ryûhei Kitamura, No One Lives nevertheless aims to flout genre convention, as a gang of thieves mug a couple in their car, only to realise that the man (Luke Evans) is a wanted serial killer, and his latest hostage, Emma (Adelaide Clemens) is worth a considerable reward. This leads to a stand-off, in which the man slowly picks the group off one by one, as they find themselves powerless to stop his relentless savagery.
Though Kitamura smartly lets loose with the excessive gore, there’s a point at which No One Lives simply becomes too silly to take seriously as a nasty thriller, specifically the point at which Evans’ character hides himself within the hollowed-out corpse of one of his oversized assailants, and then uses a Saw-esque meat grinder contraption to start meting out revenge on his remaining foes.
It’s at this point that one realises that, for all of the film’s early pretensions otherwise, it’s little more than a base torture porn flick, stuffed to the gills with silly flashbacks and a lame villain philosophy, despite a suitably chilling performance from Evans.
While it builds palpable tension early on, No One Lives de-evolves into a generic torture porn gorefest in its second half, becoming increasingly absurd as it does so.
This frightfully awful attempt to ape Men in Black, Ghostbusters and even a little bit of Robocop is best known for becoming one of the year’s biggest box office bombs – failing to even recoup half of its $130 million budget to date – in a year absolutely packed to the rafters with them.
Based on Peter M. Lenkov’s comic Rest In Peace Department, corrupt Detective Nick Walker (Ryan Reynolds) ends up on the receiving end of a fellow bent cop’s (Kevin Bacon) gun, sending him into the afterlife, where he joins the titular department, a legion of dead police officers who patrol the Earth to capture spirits who have failed to cross over to the other side called Deados. His partner? A rootin’ tootin’ veteran sheriff named Roy Pulsifer (Jeff Bridges), who doesn’t much take to being partnered with a rookie.
It’s a fine enough premise, though a disproportionate amount of screen time is devoted to what passes for character development, a mistake given how perfunctory it is in a film this free-wheeling. There are a few nifty moments throughout – namely the two cops having undercover identities on Earth, Bridges as a beautiful blonde woman, and Reynolds as James Hong – though it’s not long before Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi’s script resorts to fart jokes.
At other times, the movie simply throws any errant idea it can think of at the screen, namely that the Deados can be detected by their abnormal aversion to cumin, revealing their hideous true form. As for its attempts to display a genuine emotion, they mostly fail, especially when trying to forge a tender moment between Reynolds’ character and his wife, who can only see an elderly Chinese man accosting her.
The action is energetically shot with good style, but for what? The horrendous visual effects – especially considering the budget – are embarrassing, and the digital action ends up being more exhausting and irritating than exciting. R.I.P.D. moves admirably fast for sure, but there’s only so much charm that even an all-star cast – including Mary-Louise Parker and Robert Knepper in other supporting roles – can really bring. Bridges is great as the no-nonsense cop, but it’s hard to think of a lazier, less-ambitious blockbuster in recent memory.