Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Movie: The Deaths of Ian Stone

The main drawback of horror movies is that there are very few truly horrifying tropes out there, including (but not limited to): the division between the living and the dead; the necessity of bodily integrity; the line between sanity and cloudcuckooland. So when a new idea comes into play, it seems genuinely exciting.

I was genuinely excited to see The Deaths of Ian Stone. It promised Groundhog's Day... but with gruesome death scenes! But here, we come against the flipside of having a great concept; without an equally great follow-through, it becomes a wasted opportunity.

What The Deaths of Ian Stone offers is essentially a mystery story: why does good ol' Ian Stone, all-American boy, keep on getting murdered every day? Why does he retain only a few fragments of his previous “lives”? And what the heck is he doing in England? Does he have a valid work visa? Indeed, the mystery should propel the story forward, and, in theory, it should be maintaining our interest as we piece together the answers, breathlessly anticipating the form of Ian's next demise.

Only in theory, of course. The actuality, the film spills the beans far too quickly (thanks to the traditional fount of exposition, the Creepy Old Man). This seems to indicate that although the writer (Brendan Hood, who also penned the rightly-maligned They) had a killer concept but didn’t know where to take it. So instead of a spooky meditation on the possibilities of predestination, change or alternate dimensions, we get some hooey about supernatural beings called Harvesters, which, for all their smoky, eerie beauty, seem rather limited in their choice of deaths for Ian Stone. Impalement, throat-slitting, and speeding trains. Twice!

Mike Vogel does his best to inhabit each of Ian's new lives as best as he can; he's particularly convincing as both a junkie and a resentful office worker (although having him as a hockey jock reeks of typecasting). On the other hand, Jaime Murray is squandered in a role that involves way too much hissing. She has a sinewy sexuality, but given her actual role, it doesn't make a lick of sense.

The final third of the film devolves into quick cuts and voice-overs from previous scenes, plus a little latex and sunglasses fetishism cribbed from The Matrix. Now that the "why of the story has been answered, there's little left to do except throw in some more visual effects, add some lackluster fight and chase scenes, and ensure that, yes, love does conquer all. Ian’s last line in the movie, “What’s the matter? Scared?” seems to sum up the problems with the film as a whole. To answer his first question, the matter is a riddle is only as good as its solution; to answer his second, no.

No comments: