2013 has been a year of interesting directorial choices for WWE Studios films – Dead Man Down was helmed by (the original) The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo‘s Niels Arden Oplev, The Call by Brad Anderson (The Machinist) and now No One Lives by Ryuhei Kitamura. This was a selling point of the film for me – ever since I saw Versus I’ve been a fan of Kitamura’s dynamic style and wicked sense of humour, maintained when Midnight Meat Train was one of my favourites of Frightfest 2008 so seeing his name piqued my interest in what had initially appeared to be a fairly straightforward home invasion/stalk and slash movie.
In fact, No One Lives is a tricky film to advertise, suffering from the curse of the spoilery trailer, and it’s anything but straightforward! After a home robbery goes violently wrong, Flynn (Derek Magyar) tries to make amends with his family-based cohorts by targeting a couple he sees in a local bar (Luke Evans and Laura Ramsey) for kidnapping them to get access to their money. At the same time, there is news that an heiress missing after 14 of her friends were murdered may not be dead but abducted. Could the two be connected somehow?
One of No One Lives‘ strengths is its awareness – the dialogue pokes fun at the habits and overobviousness that pervades the genre, and from the outset there is a similar attitude to the kind of predictable behaviour that usually has viewers rolling their eyes. The sense of fun is furthered by inventive kills too which had the Frightfest audience cheering as well as laughing.
The directing is actually a little more subdued than Kitamura’s other films for the most part, though there are still some excellent visuals (including – unsurprisingly given the 80s genre influences – a gratuitous moonlight butt shot), and the cast are all strong too. In short, No One Lives is an absolute blast, especially when watched with fellow horror fans. Perfect Halloween fun – or any other time for that matter! And who knew that the tagline from The Thing really was true? ****1/2