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No One Lives (2012)

Anchor Bay Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 8/20/2013

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Video: 1/2
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/19/2013

Some people are so insecure in their own abilities that they can only cheer for winners, even if they have no true connection to the competitor in question. These people are called Duke fans. As for me, I like to pull for the underdog sometimes. There's nothing better than seeing someone defy the odds and come out on top. I wish that we saw more of this in movies, especially horror movies. Yes, I understand the need to create dramatic tension, but I'm so tired of movies, most notably the seemingly never-ending Texas Chainsaw Massacre rip-offs, where the characters seemingly have no ability to fight off their attackers. For once, I would like to see one of the potential victims kick some butt before there's less than five minutes left in the movie. No One Lives promises to be that film.

No One Lives introduces us to a man (Luke Evans) and a woman (Laura Ramsey) who are relocating, although she doesn't seem very happy with the situation. They stop at a diner to eat, where they are accosted by a gang led by Hoag (Lee Tergesen) and consisting of Flynn (Derek Magyar), Ethan (Brodus Clay), Denny (Beau Knapp), and Tamara (America Olivo). We don't know it at the time, but Amber the waitress (Lindsey Shaw) is affiliated with the group as well. Desperate to make up for a botched robbery earlier in the day, Flynn takes it upon himself to hijack the man's BMW, leaving Ethan to deal with the passengers. This was a huge mistake, for you see, the man is a trained killer and there is very valuable cargo in the back of the car. While Hoag and his clan think that they are safe in their cabin, the man is gearing up for war.

As noted above, I've always wanted to see the characters fight back in horror films, especially those which feature either slashers or homicidal hillbillies. Granted being chased by someone in a mask or someone who should be wearing a mask would be frightening, but when it's just another person and not a monster, you would think that someone would stand up and not only fight, but be able to defeat the crazy. The Aggression Scale took a big step towards achieving this goal, and it earned extra points for having the aggressor be a kid, but that movie turned into an incredibly violent version of Home Alone.

No One Lives doesn't fill that void either, as it takes things one step too far. At first the man (who is never given a name in the film and is referred to as "Driver" in the credits) and his companion seem like a normal couple. But, it doesn't take long to realize that the man is not only an assassin of some sort, but a fairly crazy one at that. So instead of getting a victim who is fighting back, we have what is essentially a villain taking on a group of villains. I think that the makers of No One Lives want to bill him as an anti-hero, but, no, he's a villain. The movie also makes the mistake of waiting too long for Hoag's gang to realize what they are up against. They are presented as a bit too cartoonish and over the top and their bravado doesn't serve them well. In order for the film to be truly successful, we need to see the fear in their eyes.

So, the best thing that No One Lives has going for it is action, which is delivers in spades. Director Ryuhei Kitamura knows his way around gore and the movie doesn't pull any punches when it comes to in your face violence. Most of the characters end up covered in blood, and creative kills are never in short supply. Also, it's become far too much of a rarity to see a movie which relies on old school special effects makeup, but we get plenty of classic gore.

This isn't the first time I've been burned by Kitamura. I was assured that his 2000 film Versus was the most action-packed horror film ever made and I shelled out the most I've ever paid for a movie to get an import DVD and it didn't live up to the hype. While there's no hype per se around No One Lives, I had still hoped that it would be more of the "backwoods clan gets their comeuppance" movie which the box had promised, instead of a nearly plotless movie where a psycho hunts other psychos.

Be aware, the main menu on No One Lives contains many spoilers. If you see it, press "Play" as quickly as possible.

No One Lives delivers a big bag of yuck to your front door on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. I noticed from the outset that the image was too dark. This was confirmed by clips in the making of featurette included here, which are much brighter and make us realize that we were actually missing details in the movie. While there is no notable grain or defects from the source materials of which to speak, the darkness gives the movie a cheap look and hurts the colors as well. The Disc carries a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. Once again, from the outset, I noted that the dialogue was low in the mix and muffled. I immediately had to activate the subtitles to ensure that I wasn't missing anything. The action scenes do produce good surround and stereo effects, some of which are quite detailed, but the low dialogue makes the track sub-par.

The lone extra on the No One Lives Blu-ray Disc is a featurette entitled "From the Script to the Crypt" (28 minutes). This piece offers interviews with the filmmakers and the cast, as well as on-set footage. We hear from Director Ryuhei Kitamura, whose mantra on the set was apparently "more blood". The special effects and the gallons of blood are examined, and we see the appliances being put on the actors (a rarity in this CG world). We also see how the stunts and physical effects were accomplished. The piece also spends some time with the WWE wrestler who is featured in the film.

Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.