Friday, October 29, 2010

Déjà Vu All Over Again

The Deaths of Ian Stone (2007, directed by Dario Piana) is another entry in the inconsistent After Dark Horror series. The premise finds the title character being killed repeatedly by some amorphous monster only to awaken in a new, slightly different reality. On paper, this sounds vaguely like Groundhog Day; in practice, it plays somewhat differently. This is one of those mind-fucking movies where any discussion of its plot is loaded with spoilers, so if you plan to see this, you are hereby warned.


The movie opens with our hero playing hockey. Right before he scores what would be the winning goal as time runs out, all of the clocks stop and the game is called mere moments before the goal is good. This has him understandably miffed. Later that night, he's attacked and killed by some vaporous apparition with a huge talon for an arm. He wakes in another life, this time as an anonymous office drone who is struggling with his lot in life. Unfortunately for him, he remembers his old life, and this draws the ire of the monsters again, who chase him home to his doting wife, who is more than she seems. This continues on through several more incarnations, but as he traverses life after life, he begins to gather information about what is happening to him and, more significantly, who he is. There are several elements to all of his lives that are constant, including the business with the clocks and two particular women. As his lives wind down, he discovers that he is part of a vampiric race of creatures called "Reapers," that he is a traitor to their kind, and that he alone has figured the trick of killing his fellow monsters. He also discovers the power of love.

Yeah. That last part makes me cringe, too. I mean, I'm as much of a romantic as the next girl, but the way this film approaches the subject of love is kind of cloying, particularly when it indulges in yet another tired Madonna/Whore dichotomy. Can we put a moratorium on this sort of thing, please?

Some elements of this film strike me as a throwback. Our hero, Ian, is played by an American, even though the rest of the movie is set in the UK and all of the other actors are Brits. This makes me nostalgic for all those European horrors of the 1960s trying to weasel into the American marketplace. I'm not entirely sure of the utility of this in the current era, given that the international market is now so much bigger than the American marketplace, and that Mike Vogel, our lead, is kind of anonymous. The familiar face in the cast for an American audience is Jaime Murray, who played Lila on the second season of Dexter. She capitalizes on that character here, and the filmmakers push her villainous persona into the realm of camp late in the movie when they trot her out in a blood red rubber catsuit. Vampirism and fetish have been close cousins for a while now. At least Murray looks good in the outfit. I just called the monsters "vampires" and that's not quite accurate. They're more in line with J. K. Rowling's dementors, so much so that I'm surprised that lawyers aren't talking.

Ian's transformation late in the movie into the kind of monster he's fighting harms the movie, too, given the grotesque appearance of the creatures (this film was co-produced by the late Stan Winston), and the effect it has on the audience's perception of his relationship with his girlfriend. It suddenly becomes kind of icky, an effect I doubt the filmmakers intended.

Still, the movie gets props for creativity. It's not a slasher movie or torture porn, which is nice, and it takes a swing at the monster movie. I like monster movies. It's certainly professional, with a high-gloss polish and pretty good special effects. The After Dark series has foisted far worse on horror fans over the years.

Current Challenge tally:

Total Viewings: 29

First Time Viewings: 29

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