Horrorfest '07: The Deaths of Ian Stone (US - DVD R1)
Gabe wishes he could be reincarnated as Vincent Cassel. You know why...
Ian Stone (Mike Vogel), an American living in the UK, continues to find himself pursued and murdered by mysterious black figures. Every time he dies he wakes up in a new reality, almost completely unaware of his past ‘lives’—almost. As time goes on Ian begins to recall faces and situations, all leading him to a mind-bending truth.
The Deaths of Ian Stone gets early points for originality, but unfortunately never quite lives up to the bizarrely amusing premise of a sort of grim Quantum Leap montage (even if Groundhog Day already did that). Once the plot gets moving the movie turns into another reality skewing mystery movie, very much in the tradition of Dark City or The Matrix. It’s not necessarily a bad 'Sci-Fi reality' twist, it just rolls into some less then original realms. The filmmakers run into the common problems of producing a new brand of mythology within a single ninety-minute film, namely a lack of proper unravelling. This epic mystery simply isn’t given the time (or money for that matter) to burn correctly, and it adds to the overall feel of missed opportunities. Fortunately the mythology is more interesting then that of lesser studio releases like the Underworld films.
The most unfortunate images appear around the third act. If your film is already garnering unflattering comparisons to Dark City and The Matrix you probably don’t want your villains showing up in skin-tight vinyl and black trench coats. I’d ruin the almost original plot if I went into the specifics of these images and their context, so you’ll just have to take my word for some of it. The Deaths of Ian Stone has a pile of style, and some of it even belongs to director Dario Piana. Despite the costume faux pas there isn’t a lot of mimicking The Matrix’s love of blue and green coating. There’s an attention to details and some great camera work during the more exciting attack scenes. I found myself genuinely thrilled despite noticing obvious budgetary constraints.
The cast is uniformly pretty great, especially male lead Mike Vogel and lead villain Jaime Murray. Vogel has the charm and looks of someone like Chris Evans, and turns what could’ve been an obnoxious and whiney character into a hero we can root for (for the most part, I still don’t really buy him in the last act). Murray is a fantastic and unexpected vixen, and a fine contrast to heroine Christina Cole, who doesn’t get the best chance to sell us her character, but also doesn’t become a simple screaming damsel either. Michael Feast brings dignity to what could’ve been a sub-Yoda character, and experience to what could’ve been an entirely (relatively) amateur production.
The creature effects aren’t the best, which isn’t totally unfair to expect from a Stan Winston production. The full-on demons kind of reminded me of the hybrid from Underworld, and their ‘hand weapons’ are sort of Terminator 2ish, but the digital effects that make them up are pretty neat, and are an effective cover up of the lowish budget. There’s also a pretty funny comparisons to be drawn between The Deaths of Ian Stone and Pixar’s Monster’s Inc. (as originally pointed out by L.A. Weekly critic Luke Y. Thompson), though fortunately these monsters aren’t quite as cute and cuddly.
Though one of the more interesting Horrorfest titles, and one that particularly lends itself to a high definition presentation, The Deaths of Ian Stone has one of the weakest looking video presentations. The top issue is the interlacing effects, which were noticeable before I even started looking for them. There isn’t much in the way of combing, but the doubling interlaced images actually made it hard to get clean screen caps. The film’s clean and high contrast look (one of its biggest draws) is slightly salted by a lack of truly deep blacks, and there’s a hint of noise throughout the whites. Colours are bright enough, though the reds do block up a bit, and details are pretty sharp for a standard definition release.
Though it probably could stand up to the likes of the film’s it tends to emulate, The Deaths of Ian Stone sounds like several million bucks. The sound design is imaginative and picks the right moments to aggressively break out. The monsters sound familiar as movie creatures, but still have an original feel, and when they go all out all 5.1 channels go with him. The surround effects work, ensuring that the right monster moves the right direction at the right time. The film’s score didn’t impress me a whole bunch, but the mix is pretty solid (if not a little soft) and the dialogue track is centred and clear.
I was crushed when I realized this was one of the bare Horrorfest discs, because I was looking forward to finding something out about the filmmakers and their process. Had I known something about what might’ve been cut for budgetary reasons, etcetera, I may’ve been inclined to seek these guys out the next time they have something to release. As it stands this disc carries only trailers and the Miss Horrorfest webisodes.
I’m glad The Deaths of Ian Stone found its home among the other Horrorfest titles, even if it doesn’t have much ‘horror’ to it. The film carries high aspiration, and even though it ends on the derivative side the filmmakers at least attempt something new and different. Overall the film isn’t great, but it shines at some moments, and was likely the best of the Horrorfest bunch this year.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 18th March 2008
Disc Type: Single side, single layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Extras: Trailers, Miss Horrorfest Webisodes
Easter Egg: No
Director: Dario Piana
Cast: Mike Vogel, Jaime Murray, Christina Cole, Michael Dixon,
Genre: Action, Horror and Mystery
Length: 90 minutes
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