November 14, 2007

Movie Review: The Deaths of Ian Stone

After Dark Films, founded by Courtney Solomon (Dungeons & Dragons and An American Haunting), is making a splash in the low-budget horror scene. In 2006 the After Dark Horror Fest arrived, spotlighting 8 films that would have otherwise been relegated to the straight to video market where they would most likely be ignored. This festival of sorts offered an opportunity for horror fans to get a look at these films on the big screen, as well as give the filmmakers some more exposure. This year, the second for the festival, I was able to take in five of the features. Are all of them great? No, but they all have something to offer, something outside of the mainstream glut of remakes and imports. The first of these films is The Deaths of Ian Stone.

Directed by Dario Piana, The Deaths of Ian Stone is an interesting supernatural thriller but not much of a horror film. The biggest problem is that it is completely dependent on exposition, not only that, but exposition provided by an outside character. Now being a film that requires much dialogue to deliver the plot it suffers from slow pacing where little learned. As the first half feels like a bit of a slog, the build to the climax comes at a rather high speed giving the film a rushed feeling.

As the movie opens we get dropped right in the middle of a hockey match. A player with the name Stone on his jersey is speeding across the ice as the clock ticks down, as the time is about to hit zero he shoots and scores. However, the goal is discounted as the referee says time ran out despite the clock sitting on two seconds. The ref explains it as a broken clock, although the further into the film you go the bigger the stopped clock implication looms. Later that night Ian is driving home in a downpour. As he approaches a railroad crossing he sees a body lying in the road. Ian stops to investigate, as he touches the body it leaps into motion chasing Ian back to his car and dragging him out. The creature drags our hero to the tracks, holding down as a train approaches. The moment the train reaches him he jerks awake and finds he is in the middle of an office sitting at what is presumably his desk. And so begins the next of Ian's lives and the search for answers that will lead Ian somewhere that he never would have expected.

On paper, The Deaths of Ian Stone looks like a fascinating film. Ian is a young man who is murdered by some sort of spectral creature only to wake up in a new life with a completely different situation. He is always Ian Stone and there are always some familiar faces, but the details of his past are different. Stone, however, does remember some details of his past incarnations, but is unable to put the pieces together. He encounters a strange old man who seems to have intimate knowledge of the situation and does his best to explain it to our hero.

The concept is fascinating, with Ian being pursued through these different realities by these creepy individuals. Just what is it about Ian that they keep chasing him? Well, I could tell you but then you wouldn't have much of a reason to see the movie. Why would I want to rob you of that?

For a low budget film it has a professionally slick look to it that works well for the story. The as interesting as the layers are, and as good as it has the potential to be, The Deaths ofThen Ian Stone should have been a lot better. The screenplay leaves a lot to be desired as the pacing, which could also be attributed to direction and editing, takes a while to get up to speed. Every minute we move closer to the end is a minute of exposition lost, and more climax information to be rushed through. Then there is the case of Mike Vogel and his portrayal of Ian Stone, it is not bad but his switch from confusion to running for his life happens all too quickly. It is like a switch was flipped rather than an organic growth of character.

In the end, this was an interesting movie that is worth revisiting, warts and all. Despite the pace problems and some performance issues it has a good look, good effects, and an interesting story. It is worth seeing more than once to attempt to read between the lines of what was intended. It is not a horror film, but can be understood to fall under the banner as such. It is more of a science fiction film with some horror elements.

Bottomline. Interesting film that fails to live up to its premise, but still retains enough substanced to warrant a rewatch, even a first watch for the curious. It makes a strong attempt to create an intelligent story that also has enough thrills to target a couple different audience demographic.



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