What new stalk and slash move No One Lives does well: It gives Versus and Midnight Meat Train director Kitamura Ryuhei ample room to stage and execute a series of elaborate and gory kills.
What it does poorly: Everything else.
Luke Evans -- that's him in the image above, wondering how he ever ended up in this thing -- is relocating. Uprooting and traveling across country to get away from some unnamed trouble. He's got a girl in the seat behind him, another locked in the trunk of his car, and a trailer filled with high tech weaponry and gadgets which he owns and knows how to use for no reason that anyone ever cares to explain. The gang of small time crooks who drive him off the road to rob him know none of this, of course, but ... well ... the title of the film is No One Lives.
Jam packed from start to finish with ludicrous dialogue delivered flatly be actors who are either good enough to have realized what sort of movie they're in and stopped caring or those who simply weren't any good in the first place, with all of them coached by a director who clearly has no ear for the natural rhythms of English whatsoever, No One Lives taps into every slasher cliche ever played out on screen wholeheartedly while arguably discovering several new ones along the way. It is ridiculously lacking in every element of story or character, tapping into every trope -- including the explicit linking of sex and violence -- that critics of horror point at as justifications for writing the genre off as a whole. In the case of this film every one of those criticisms will be correct.
But here's the thing. Kitamura's execution of his executions is strong enough and stylish enough that, when combined with the egregiously inane dialogue, the film takes on a certain sort of lunatic charm. Never mind the next kill, wait for the next horrible line. So bad it's good? I don't know if I'd apply the word 'good' in any circumstances but you'll certainly find yourself laughing.
No One Lives is a film that desperately wants to be taken seriously as a hard edged slasher. Instead it is a film destined for a long life as a college drinking game. But, hey ... at least it gets to live.
Review originally published during the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2012. No One Lives opens in limited theatrical release in the U.S. on May 10. Check the official site for theater listings and other information.