No One Lives: Film Review

No One Lives Luke Evans - H 2013
Anchor Bay Entertainment

No One Lives Luke Evans - H 2013

Gore flick aims to launch a franchise but can't even carry a single outing's weight.

The director of "The Midnight Meat Train" takes his bloodthirsty visions to the back woods.

Mystery-man slashers don't get more ninja-like -- or more ludicrous -- than the nameless killer Luke Evans plays in No One Lives, a gore flick by Ryuhei Kitamura that pivots early on from a travelers-in-peril scenario to one introducing what producers hope will be a franchise-worthy villain. That hope is unfounded. While admirers of previous Kitamura outings Versus and The Midnight Meat Train may get some sloppy kicks here, few others will enjoy the ride.

Evans (referred to in credits as Driver) enters the film as what appears to be an emotionally wounded, mysteriously macho hero. Evidently moving to a new town with his girlfriend in an attempt to patch things up after an affair, he's the kind of singular man who inspires women to marvel, "must everything about you be different?"

But when the couple is carjacked by a team of house thieves (to be more precise, by their resident Loose Cannon, whom they seem to employ solely to get them in trouble), we soon realize we've misread things. Driver's girlfriend beheads herself rather than try to escape with him; a compartment in his trunk contains the bound-and-gagged heiress (Adelaide Clemens's Emma) whose disappearance has been in the news for months. And Driver -- well, he turns out to have the kind of knack for elaborate killings that only exists in the minds of screenwriters who don't expect their audience to be able to spell "plausibility," much less care what it means.

PHOTOS: Halloween Gone Wrong: The 10 Least Scary Movies of All Time

While Emma, Driver's favorite chained-in-the-basement torture doll, looks scornfully at the bumpkins now plotting to ransom her, Driver kills the captors off with everything from tripwire projectiles to the whirring interiors of a Jeep engine. Why? As the self-described psychopath puts it, he likes to keep in practice.

If the Razzies have a category for ensemble acting, No One Lives represents an early frontrunner for 2013 -- though the cast's badness isn't the vibrantly trashy kind that might've mined the comic stupidity of the plot, which at one point has Driver hiding out inside the corpse of one of his victims. That image is staged as if on par with Martin Sheen's emergence from the muck in Apocalypse Now; but Kitamura flubs the stagings of many of his more gruesome gags, obscuring them with poor lighting and clumsy timing. When a slasher pic can't exploit a woodchipper for more sadistic thrills than we get here, it shouldn't expect moviegoers to salivate for a sequel.