Every time I think of this film's title, the song "Deep Down and Dirty" by the Stereo MC's pops into my mind - "No-one lives and no-one dies" as the lyrics go. Thankfully, quite a few people die in No One Lives - some, in particularly nasty circumstances. So, that's a good start for this horror film.
Director Ryûhei Kitamura (The Midnight Meat Train, Versus) offers us this simple story of a total psychopath terrorising a cabin full of nasty criminals who dare take his victim (Adelaide Clemens) away from him. If you were to take the narrative at face value, you will think that this film is completely predictable and by-the-numbers. However, upon closer inspection, you will realise that this is in actual fact, a different take on the so-called "home invasion" film.
We have been bombarded with these sorts of films in the last decade or so. Switchblade Romance, Funny Games, (let's not forget the original foreign cinema films that these were re-made from) The Strangers - even the more recent The Purge and You're Next from a few months ago, have taken us inside a house full of vulnerable victims under siege from the nasty people terrorising them from outside. As a concept, you could even trace this all the way back to Straw Dogs in 1971.
Beginning with your typical establishing shot of a vulnerable female running through the woods whilst being pursued, you may be forgiven for thinking "Here we go again". Although you may have seen this opening sequence many times before - The Evil Dead remake sprang to mind - the film takes an unexpected turn. We discover that this is not a film of good versus evil, but rather something different.
No One Lives does not offer anything new. It is more of the same, but from a different perspective. This time around, it is the bad guys that are under siege. It is the type of film that all horror fans would be familiar with, but presented in a different way. Sure, you still have the moments of silly dialogue and set-piece moments that couldn't be more obvious than if they came lumbering over the horizon on a unicycle shouting, "Hey, look at me, I'm a shocking set-piece moment!" but for every moment like this, there is a nasty shock further down the line that will titillate the average horror viewer.
Some kills include enough gore to keep most horror fans happy, but I must admit that the CGI blood splatters bothered me from time to time throughout the film. When the crimson flowing and exploding on the screen wasn't achieved by a computer effect, it looked quite impressive. There are quite a few opportunities to enjoy these moments, as the methods of death seemed to get more and more inventive. Some of the kills are worthy of a Jason Voorhees or a Michael Myers in their method and execution (no pun intended).
Luke Evans (The Raven, Fast and Furious 6 and soon-to-be Eric Draven in the upcoming The Crow reimagining) plays the aforementioned psychopath who does the terrorising of the bad guys hiding in their cabin as they hide from the law.
Funnily enough, No One Lives picks up its pace once most of the bad guys have been dispatched and becomes most interesting when there are just enough characters to play a game of cat-and-mouse.
As you may have picked up from my "Jason and Michael" comment previously, this film develops into a slasher movie that will satisfy the horror viewer who wishes to enjoy something that is simple yet satisfying.
There are occasions when all a horror-loving audience wants is a film that is familiar in its concept and doesn't try to be too clever or ground-breaking - many a horror film has been spoiled by trying to achieve this.
This is a film that offers this very kind of experience. It won't try to charm the pants off of you by attempting to offer something new that ultimately will fall flat, or be too pretentious - it is what it is, and as long as you do not expect anything more than a visit to familiar territory, you may find yourself enjoying it.
I was pleased to discover that No One Lives is a WWE Studios film that did not serve as an opportunity to cast one of the man-mountain wrestlers within its ranks as the brutal killer or the muscle-bound protagonist in a usually mundane horror script. In fact, the casting of the notable talents of Luke Evans, Derek Magyar, Laura Ramsey and Lindsey Shaw, is a move away from such previous efforts as See No Evil.
Some fans will see this film as being quite formulaic in its concept and execution - others will see it as being a serious nod towards the slasher and home invasion sub-genres. It does not offer anything new, but definitely worth a watch. If you still need convincing, you may want to know that this film received a very positive reception when screened at FrightFest last summer. Not a bad barometer to measure it by.
No One Lives is available to buy now on UK DVD and Blu Ray.
Review: No One Lives
By Andreas Charalambous - 21st October 2013