Old-school horror, the kind that makes you laugh and squirm in equal measure, is frightfully hard to come by these days. Either a film doesn’t have the charm to pull off an enjoyable venture into grotesque fun, or it lacks the balls and brains to relay a truly horrifying tale. Arguably No One Lives is a failed attempt at the latter with enough self-awareness and genius scripting to settle quite comfortably into the structure of an old barmy hot-pot of blood and chaos.
Make no mistake, even with its strong element of black comedy and laughable outlandishness, No One Lives is gorgeous in all its gory glory. An ironic B-movie set-up of hunters and hunted crossing path is wired to send us on an often humorous trail of destruction. Nodding to a hundred horror pictures with every brutal dispatch whilst making room for its own inventive brand of brutality is no easy task. There are a few stomach churners and a kind of gleeful gore-hounding that comes hand in hand with any nostalgic trip into horror.
Luke Evans gives a genius performance as the enigmatic Driver, a man of visceral intensity and ridiculous dialogue. His character perhaps sums up the entire film best: aimless, thrilling to behold, and utterly ludicrous. There is no explanation for his actions because there is no need for one. In an age obsessed with back-stories, prequels, and reasons, No One Lives’ faulted villain is a breath of fresh air, a true madman in the vein of Michael Myers with a strong John Ryder vibe. Actually, Evans seems to emulate Hauer’s classic performance in The Hitcher for the most part of the film, relishing in the unrelenting brutality of violent psychopaths with too much time on their hands.
There’s nothing worse than when a film treats its audience like shit, spoon-feeding them tiny little portions of totally flat action or dumb. No One Lives is quick, skilled and charitable with its clever moments and great action. There’s no weight put on the clever moments, no slowing down the cart for us to enjoy the scenery, Kitamura is very nonchalant in his regard for how well put together the film is. There’s no finger-sucking moments of ‘look how well we did here’ or over -mulling moments of dramatic tension and that is very attractive. Except from a perhaps unfulfilled finale, the film is consistently surprising. Don’t watch the trailer, if you can, just go watch the film.
There is no guilt whatsoever in enjoying, nay loving, this heartfelt ode to 70s and 80s cult “crap”. Not one jot of remorse in loving every second of a rollercoaster of surprise, intrigue, and thrill led by a superb unrelenting pace, punctuated by great performance, and laced with dark humour that proves this is nothing if not wholly enjoyable.
Dir: Ryuhei Kitamura
Stars: Luke Evans, Adelaide Clemens, Lee Tergesen, Derek Magyar