So once again we have survived.

No One Lives

tn_noonelivesWWEstudiosI’m not gonna try to convince you that NO ONE LIVES is a new horror classic or anything, but I enjoyed it. It’s from the prestigious WWE Studios and it has a level of absurdity and audacity that makes it a worthy successor to their first horror production, SEE NO EVIL. The British advertising even uses an Empire quote calling it a “guilty pleasure.” They’re not trying to fool anybody.

This one has an obvious SAW influence, but it’s not a so-called torture porno. It’s kind of a horror-formula moosh-up, combining the super-genius-psycho-with-ridiculous-death-contraptions with more of a traditional slasher movie formula (people in cabin being picked off one-by-one) as well as a little LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (class tensions and abduction courtesy of a family/gang of greaser reprobates).

It’s got one of these prologues that begins mid-terror, a screaming blond named Emma (Adelaide Clemens) chased through some woods, captured by booby traps. Turns out later she’s from a rich family, but judging by these traps the kidnapper is not in it for the money. He just likes hanging girls upside down and stuff.

mp_noonelivesThen we meet a couple (Luke Evans from FURIOUS 6, Laura Ramsey from KILL THE IRISHMAN) who are having relationship troubles as they move across the country with all their belongings in a trailer and stop at a random motel out in the boonies. Out to get something to eat they get harassed by Flynn (Derek Magyar, who looks like an evil Elijah Wood, but not the same one that was in MANIAC), a young thug whose family of criminals yank him away, already annoyed because the dumb motherfucker just shot up an entire family during a burglary. Later that night, stubborn Flynn decides to show everybody what’s what by abducting the couple and their trailer, tying them up, trying to get their pin numbers and shit.

BIG SPOILER COMING UP

But things are not as they seem… unless you saw the DVD cover where Luke Evans seems to be the bad guy,  in which case things are as they seem. Yeah, I saw it coming, but still really like the twist that the family finds Emma, the missing heiress, in the couple’s trailer, meaning that Luke Evans is the Jigsaw-esque brai/ma-niac and they are totally fucked now because he’s gotten loose and he will not stop until he has used fancy weapons on all of them. They of course have good reason not to call the cops and are greedy enough to not let the girl loose, thinking they can claim a reward or better yet a ransom. So it’s super-maniac vs. thugs with the kidnapee stuck in the middle.

Sometimes it’s a problem for a horror movie when you hate all the characters, whether you’re supposed to or not. For me it works in this one, because you have Emma to root for, and she’s a little different version of the Final Girl, being completely jaded from her experiences. She has trouble convincing these idiots how much danger they’re in, and there’s a great moment where she’s about to make a run out the front door. I’m not sure whether or not she sees the killer standing in the distance naked and covered head to toe in blood, but she decides to stop and tell the family that her best chance is to wait for him to start killing them before she tries to escape.

And throughout the ordeal she always looks unimpressed – or maybe just kinda annoyed – while the hardened criminals around her react like your usual horrified slasher movie victims. It’s a nice image.

still_noonelives.com
It’s the section just after the twist that won me over to the movie, because there’s a high concentration of crazy shit there. One part I love involves the reveal of an extreme method that the killer uses to hide. The only hint I’ll give is that it is possibly an homage to a STAR WARS movie. Another is (SPOILER) when the gang’s leader Hoag (Lee Tergesen) is right in the middle of saying “I want this motherfucker DEAD!” and a big ass spear with a cable on it shoots right through his back and then yanks him up into the trees like a yoyo. See, there was another hidden compartment in that trailer, and this guy has some serious equipment with him.

To be fair not all of the good ideas are ludicrous, over-the-top ones. There’s actually some subtlety here and there. For example the movie never comes out and explains what’s up with the killer and the girlfriend he has at the beginning, but you can piece it together.

The most SAW-like parts are the various depraved ways the killer messes with Emma’s mind (for example slitting his own throat so that she’ll have to save her tormenter’s life if she wants to escape him). Luckily these are done in quick flashbacks, giving it an atypical structure and not dwelling on them enough to bog things down. The movie’s only about 80 minutes, a good length for a movie like this.

Unfortunately NO ONE LIVES follows the current WWE model of just having one wrestler I never heard of (Brodus Clay) in a supporting role, but at least it was easy to figure out which one was him. The big guy. The WWE spirit does come through though in a couple of non-wrestler scenes. Out of the blue the killer starts doing martial arts on a guy, and then a big suplex type move. There’s also a sudden furniture-smashing woman-on-woman fight that forced me to look up if any of these actresses are “WWE Divas.” They’re not, but they do a good job. It’s ridiculous, and it’s not something you usually see in a horror movie, and that partly makes up for the way the camera jerks up and down during these scenes.

I guess this actually did get a theatrical release, but it was from Anchor Bay, which explains why you never heard  of it. I don’t know why they even bother with theatrical releases, since they’ve never known how to do it. I do remember seeing a trailer for this a long time ago and they must’ve done a shitty job transferring it because I remember it  looking cheap and ugly. On DVD it actually looks pretty slick. In fact the cinematographer is Daniel Pearl, who did both the original and remake of THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE.

I didn’t realize it while watching it, but the director is Ryuhei Kitamura, the Japanese director who used to be known for the samurai/zombie cult movie VERSUS and later did AZUMI and GODZILLA’S FINAL WARS with Don “The Predator” Frye. This is his second English language film, the first being BRADLEY COOPER IS MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN. This has a similar brew of okay movie infused with inspired weirdness and violence. I like it.

My one major complaint is BIG ASS SPOILERS about the ending. I still maintain that in a slasher movie it is crucial to see the Final Girl victorious. In the case of TEXAS CHAIN SAW that just means she survives by the skin of her teeth, but in a more silly movie like this you want to see her really give it to the killer. I mean, this poor girl has been locked up and tormented for who knows how long, almost escaping at least once, tricked into having this connection with the guy, then she gets tossed around by the gang of thieves, navigates her way through this minefield of mutilation, she gets cut open and (I think) left for dead, but she survives… I’m glad for that, but I think she earned the right to shoot some harpoons into the guy and draw and quarter him or something. Her survival is tarnished by this asshole not only getting away, but smiling and taunting her. I guess hopes for a franchise (or the urge to copy SAW) take precedence over the needs of the audience. And the accuracy of the title.

Why would they feel that was necessary, though? The killer in SEE NO EVIL was last seen dead with a dog peeing in his eye sockets, and they’re still bringing him back for a part 2. I would’ve watched the sequel anyway. But they gotta be better to these Final Girls, treat ’em like champs.


VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Sunday, August 25th, 2013 at 11:32 pm and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

35 Responses to “No One Lives”

  1. Lee Tergesen is the Energizer Bunnyman of obscure character actors destined to play baddies. I mean, here’s a guy who played Rosie the non-surfing Ex-President henchman way back in ’91’s Point Break, and he’s still crankin’ ’em out. That speaks volumes about the man’s abilities.

  2. I saw this at the Toronto Film Fest last year and didn’t like it. It looked good on paper but didn’t sell it for me. I appreciated the absurdity and the twists but it just seemed like those were cool ideas that didn’t actually work. Maybe I was just tired.

  3. I’m actually surprised that Lee Tergesen isn’t a bigger name when it comes to supporting character actors. His brillant performance in OZ made me a fan for life, but he really needs a better agent. (Or a time machine that takes him back to the 90s. I’m sure if today’s American indie movie scene would be anything like the one in that decade, we would now put him in one line with Steve Buscemi, Samuel L. Jackson, John Turturro, William H Macy, Phillip Seymour Hoffman or Sam Rockwell.)

  4. Adelaide Clemens was great in PARADE’S END with Benedict Cumberkhan – based on that performance, I wouldn’t really have expected to see her pop up in a slasher pic. Weird.

  5. Vern, the token wrestler in this is also known as The Funkasaurus. His gimmick is that he’s huge and likes to dance, but he can’t really dance, his only move is raptor hands.

    That’s at least a step up from his last WWE run a decade ago where his only distinguishing features were “has a crazy amount of body hair” and “is named after a genital piercing”.

  6. Wait, I messed up, the second guy is his tag partner who is also huge and likes to dance. My bad.

  7. Adelaide Clemens is from the same batch of clones as Michelle Williams and Carey Mulligan, yet she doesn’t seem have the same career even if she is a perfectly fine actress. Instead she’s been cast off into more obscure, not-so-glamorous genre work. Or appearing in outright garbage like SILENT HILL REVELATIONS (and I liked the first SILENT HILL).

    After VERSUS and AZUMI, I really thought Ryuhei Kitamura would be the next John Woo. A director with fantastic eye for kinetic, graceful action. But after that, his Japanese work failed to live up to expectations, and he seemed to have stumbled in making the transition to Hollywood as well. And looking at IMDB, his project with Nicolas Cage has apparently fallen apart too. Too bad, because if for nothing else, it had an amazing poster that got my hopes up:

    http://twitchfilm.com/2012/05/nicolas-cages-photoshopped-abs-star-in-ryuhei-kitamuras-marble-city.html

    In a weird coincidence nothing to do with Vern’s journey into WWE’s filmography, I saw THE CALL and DEAD MAN DOWN recently almost back-to-back. So, having this review – and my interest in the careers of Kitamura and Clemens – I’m now interested in capping off my own WWE watching trilogy and look this film up.

  8. Speaking of Lee Tergeson, I really recommend Vern watch The Collector so he can watch The Collection. It’s probably my favorite Saw meets Aliens horror film ever. I just think it is super. Tomorrow I’m gonna see You’re Next and I hope that also is amazing.

  9. I want to talk about Brodus Clay.

    Brodus Clay had a lot of hype videos before his debut. They all had him talking about the end of days and how he would destroy the world. Very existential fat guy stuff. Really good stuff, too.

    Then he debuts as a dancing fat man in a red track suit, accompanied by his two “Funkadactyls”. He proceeded to fat man splash and win a lot of matches, but really didn’t go anywhere besides being a fun entrance.

    Also debuting around this time was Lord Tensai, soon to be just Tensai. He Albert in a past life, A-Train after that, and Giant Bernard in Japan. Good wrestler. His gimmick was that he dominated in Japan and took the contempt he had for the Japanese and made their culture his own. He got a pretty good push, even beat John Cena clean. Eventually he hit a brick wall and started losing all the time. This lead to him getting increasingly frustrated. One day Brodus Clay convinced him that Tensai and him would face one another in a lingerie match, which Tensai believed for some reason and he came out in lingerie. Tensai was angry.

    But then a magical thing happened: Brodus Clay looked at poor Tensai, a monster that no longer scared anyone and who was too dim to not be fooled by simple tricks, and decided to become his friend. Tensai quickly reciprocated and between that and a schoolyard crush on one of the Funkadactyls (I think Naomi because she’s the best) they became a tag team called Tons of Funk. They now lose matches together, but are friends doing it.

  10. Hey, I kinda liked SILENT HILL 2: WORD THAT STARTS WITH R AND ENDS WITH N. It was like a cross between POLTERGEIST III and HELLRAISER II. It didn’t make a lick of sense but it had some fun set-pieces. It even had a great cast for five minutes at a time since they clearly couldn’t afford to have any of the name actors on the set at the same time. Plus, it’s nice to see a franchise where Sean Bean is the surviving character. Must be weird for him, not dying all the time.

    I also like Luke Evans. He was very dashing and intriguing with very little screen time in that THREE MUSKETEERS movie only me and Tarantino ever saw. He’d make a great Dr. Strange if Marvel ever decides to just get it over with and give it to del Toro.

  11. “Hey, I kinda liked SILENT HILL 2: WORD THAT STARTS WITH R AND ENDS WITH N.”

    no dude…..just no

  12. The Undefeated Gaul

    August 26th, 2013 at 7:43 am

    Lee Tergesen. Never heard that name before but then I looked him up and recognized him instantly. It’s the Weird Science guy, evil brother Chett! That brings back memories…

    Unbelievable that guy became a serious actor after that.

  13. Griff, I have no reverence for the video game series. Never played it, never will. All I know is there’s a bunch of blind zombie nurses with their cleavage hanging out who stab you if you make a sound and a guy with a big metal cage on his face and a sword the size of an NBA power forward. That’s the kind of fun, goofy horror shit I watch sequels with colons in their titles for in the first place.

  14. Mr. Majestyk – but see here’s the thing, the first 3 Silent Hills are some of the best, most brilliant video games ever made and the fact that all the general public knows about it are “blind zombie nurses with their cleavage hanging out who stab you if you make a sound and a guy with a big metal cage on his face and a sword the size of an NBA power forward” is why I hate those fucking movies so fucking much, because there’s so much more to it than that

    it’s a real sore-spot with me, let’s just leave it at that

    but I know a comparison you’ll understand, it’s like how all the general public knows about Seagal is “fat guy in a trench coat with a pony tail”

  15. I’ll take your word for it that the games are great. But if admiring them is going to prevent me from enjoying a stupid horror movie where Carrie Anne Moss turns from Glenda the Good Witch into a Cenobite for no good reason, then count me out.

    Also, I liked the part where the evil spirit is conquered by hugging. That’s a good message to put out there for the kids.

    In other news, I’m off to see YOU’RE NEXT, which, sadly, the theater marquee lists as YOUR NEXT. My next what, Regal Cinemas? My next WHAT?!!

  16. Silent Hill being “some of the best, most brilliant video games ever made” is really an indictment of video games because it’s really not very good. Don’t get me wrong, they have merit. They have some great imagery. They have some spooky moments. They also have a lot of shit that doesn’t work.

    Before you freak out, I love video games. I play video games. I want them to do better. From a story standpoint, they are mostly garbage and this sets the bar low for the rest of them. Games that actually deliver a cohesive narrative with remedial plotting and writing get praised as though they are masterpieces. Witness the new Splinter Cell game, which is a literal 100 million dollar video game that has a plot that reads like a fifteen-year-old writing his first satire of a Tom Clancy story. Longtime players describe the story as “not that bad.”

  17. Griff – The thing with SILENT HILL and most video games is that the hook of the game is the immersion of interacting with the game world. SILENT HILL 2 for example as great as it was would make for a pretty average movie if you just lifted everything as is and put it on the screen without the immersion and interactions that video games provide.

    With that considered I thought the first SILENT HILL movie was ok. Certainly better than I expected and at least it created an environment and atmosphere more reminiscent of the games than any RESIDENT EVIL movie has done. I still haven’t seen SILENT HILL 2: THE SMELL OF FEAR. TBH I had forgotten it even existed but I think I’ll track it down now because I actually am in the camp of people who doesn’t mind POLTERGEIST III: IT’S ALMOST LIKE DEMONS 2 BUT WITH GHOSTS.

  18. Oh and by the way IMO video game horror will always be more immersive than movie horror because you are in that shit. YOU are the Final Girl. If you can get through Amnesia: The Dark Descent you’re a stronger man than I. I had to stop playing that game because my heart was about to leap out of my throat and splat against my computer monitor. Same with a few Silent Hill moments although I managed to make it through that one.

  19. Here is some riveting videogame related storytelling: PONG fan-fiction. Deep stories like “Pongs farting problem”. It starts like this:
    “The white colored pong ball sighed of boredom as she continued going back and forth between the left and right white paddles. The screen was black, with the pong ball and pong paddles being the only speck of color around.”

    http://www.fanfiction.net/s/8647905/1/Pong-s-Farting-Problem

  20. all I know is that no piece of media, movie or otherwise, has scared me as bad as SILENT HILL 2 did when I first played it in 2001

    I was probably way too young to be playing it, it was the first horror game I ever played and what a game to start with, but as HardlyWalken said the idea of YOU being the one being chased by the monsters and stuff, horror as an active experience instead of a passing one, fucked with me so bad that I had to stop playing it and didn’t actually finish it until 6 years later

    another thing that scared me so bad was the fact that I had not played the first game at the time, so I had not a clue what the fuck was going on (only later did I learn that there’s not much of a story connection to the first game anyway), all I knew was that some guys walks into a town that for some unknown reason is empty and filled with horrible monsters, where the fuck did they come from? where did everybody go? that fear of the unknown and unexplained was a new experience in horror for me (it’s what I later learned could be described as “Lovecraftian”)

    what I’m trying to say is, it was the perfect storm of getting the ever loving SHIT scared out of me

  21. oh and by the way, are you looking forward to the AMNESIA sequel that comes out soon HardlyWalken?

  22. @Sternshein-Never saw THE COLLECTOR but I really enjoyed THE COLLECTION. That movie was pretty fucking cool, and it has that “treat ’em like a champ” final girl that Vern is always looking out for. Oddly cathartic slasher movie. Really worth checking out, and I think it is streaming on Netflix.

    Also, who got around to seeing YOU’RE NEXT this weekend? I liked it, but I didn’t fall in love with it like some reviewers seemed to. But, even with that in mind, it played an awful lot stronger to me than any of the other horror films this year.

  23. Griff, you know it dawg. I probably won’t make it through the game but it’s 15 bucks, that’s 3 dollars more than the premium price for a movie near my house. Even if I get 2 hours out of it that’s good enough for me. From the setup it’s definitely going to be a nasty piece of work.

  24. SILENT HILL the games managed to be scary because the scares were about mood and tension rather than monsters. It was a pretty interesting Japanese blend of JACOB’S LADDER and HELLRAISER. It didn’t hurt that the visuals were drenched in spooky atmosphere from the foggy town to the rusty hellscapes. Add the factor of player being in control, experiencing the horrors in a more immediate and personal way, and it’s a memorable mixture.

    Yes, the early games don’t probably scare anyone now, and look really crude. But they were landmarks of their time. Of course they ran the game series into the ground too. Too many sequels and too many crappy games. The formerly mysterious town is now all too familiar and bland, diluted by people scraping by with only the superficial elements and discarding everything that made it early games great.

    That’s why I think SILENT HILL is a good movie, and SILENT HILL REVELATION is fucking terrible. The first one at least makes an attempt to be about something – about motherhood and all the fucked up imagery and fears that come with it. It’s not anywhere near perfect, but it is stylish and makes a genuine effort. The second movie is pure superficial gloss, and not even executed in any interesting or suspenseful way. Completely missed the mark.

    It’s too bad since adapting the basic plot of SILENT HILL 2 the game would have been interesting in the right hands. There is definitely some good cinematic material about the resentment, the obsession and the guilt of the main character, and using the town of Silent Hill as an allegory for purgatory.

    But then again, SILENT HILL 3 the game had a decent plot too, and they completely managed to botch adapting even shredded ribbons of that into REVELATION. Couldn’t even kill Sean Bean in a story where Sean Bean was supposed to die.

  25. Saw YOU’RE NEXT. It was fairly awesome, but they’re advertising it all wrong. They make it look like your standard gruesome, depressing home invasion thriller, but it’s really the story of the Most Badass Final Girl Of All Time. And that’s way more fun. I’m showing this one to my baby nieces as soon as they reach double digits.

    The marquee was still YOUR NEXT, though. I’m disappointed in you, Regal Cinema. If the Lambface Killah can use proper punctuation writing in blood on the wall in the scant seconds before his victim’s family members run up the stairs and discover him, then you can, too.

  26. The thing about the SILENT HILL 2 is that it’s way more than the sum of its parts. The mechanics were clumsy, the CG graphics were nestled squarely in the uncanny valley, the voice acting was terrible, the plot and puzzles were nonsense, and the dialog was weird off-kilter stuff that no human being would ever say. At least some of that was unintentional, and it all created this weird dreamlike atmosphere where it felt like anything could happen. It was lightning-in-a-bottle stuff that none of the subsequent games have been able to capture.

    Another thing that a lot of the post-SH2 games forget is that the enemies in the game were metaphors for your character *spoiler* dealing with euthanising his terminally ill wife eg the sexy nurses were symbolic of your sexual frustration after years of caring for your wife *spoiler* The games after that just put those monsters in the games because they looked cool.

    YOU’RE NEXT sounds like a lot of fun. I didn’t really like V/H/S and thought Wingard’s wraparound story was terrible, but I do remember thinking his first feature HOME SICK was pretty good for a first-time low budget horror film.

  27. Enjoyed this a lot. Luke Evans is putting out some good stuff between this and Furious. Will have to check out his other work. His line of dialogue and delivery at the end made me laugh out loud… (spoiler)… “He has my wallet. Stop, Thief!” (End spoiler)

    Nick/Sternshein. I liked The Collector/Collection too. It is good to see Bane’s mate getting work. Did I dream a Vern review where he wasn’t impressed? I would investigate but I am on my phone and it really sucks.

  28. Hey, I worked a few days processing the dailies on this! (Although I never saw the finished product.) I’m glad you liked it, Vern!

  29. Apparently Lindsey Shaw is in it too, who I saw last time as a young teenager in NED’S DECLASSIFIED SCHOOL SURVIVIAL GUIDE, which was pretty much the most hilarious live action Nickelodeon show of the 00s. Turns out she is seriously damn hot today.

  30. (And also 24 years old, which makes my previous comment a little less creepy.)

  31. Well, I’ll actually split the difference here one the Silent Hill issue: Loved the game (Silent Hill 2, and to a lesser extent 3 is kinda fun). Adored Chris Gans’s film, which is full of obvious problems but gets the tone and imagery right. But I also loved SILENT HILL: RETALIATION, in an entirely different way. It’s beyond idiotic, and spends way too much of it’s runtime re-explaining obvious things from the original movie which aren’t important anyway. But when it finally stops explaining things and gets down to having setpieces, it pulls no punches and hence feels free to utilize all the strange Silent Hill icons as shamelessly as possible. Plus, every few minutes there’s gonna be either a new awesome character actor or a new monster, and it’s stuffed with fun 3-D gimmicks. I mean, it’s manifestly terrible, but how many terrible horror movies are this eager to please?

  32. As someone who really, truly hated the first SILENT HILL movie, I can say that I disliked the sequel in a much more agreeable way. It’s not a good movie, but unlike the tedious and grim first one, it’s silly and shameless and I was brought to the verge of entertainment on more than one occasion.

  33. I really enjoyed this review! Can’t wait to see this film.

  34. http://variety.com/2014/film/news/dean-ambrose-wwe-studios-lionsgate-greenlight-actioner-lockdown-exclusive-1201283414/

    This might be the first WWE Film I’m interested in seeing. Ambrose is pretty good as not just a technician but is very expressive and that could bode well for his acting abilities.

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