Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Deaths of Ian Stone

After Dark Films is shit, 8 Films to Die For is shit. Out of 36 films, maybe 5 of them are any good. That's not a ratio to be particularly proud of. I'm thankful to say, this is one of the good ones.

B movies are my favorite type of movies. These movies are fun. We live in a world that is mostly transfixed on the "bad" B movie. There are countless horror-comedies in this vein. What's usually forgotten about are the good B movies. The kinds of films that nothing more than to entertain, and actually being entertaining. Sometimes a cool concept surfaces, but the nature of the production means it never capitalizes on that idea. But hey, it's the thought that counts.

The other week, for one reason or another, I remembered The Deaths of Ian Stone. A cool movie I saw in 2008, and never since then. I have it on DVD, so I figured I'd start it up again. It had been sitting in my collection for so long, there was difficulty removing the case from the paper sleeve. The two were literally stuck together, and I was worried I would break the casing trying to to remove them. #CollectorFears

Fear not, my hands were firm yet gentle. Is The Deaths of Ian Stone still a good movie, nearly a decade from when it released? Let's take a look.

It starts with the title, The Deaths of Ian Stone. Phew, that's like, a sentence. In a world of one word and two word titles, a sentence sticks out. It gives a warm feeling, as if it almost wants to be literature, but it doesn't, because it just chose the name to sound cool. A longer title gives the viewer a little more respect. It knows I'm along for the ride.

The film starts off with the protagonist, Ian Stone. All around good white guy who likes sports, namely hockey. All of a sudden, I feel this is a Canadian production. I'm not going to name names, but Vancouver. The movie is filmed in the UK, whatever. Anyways, Ian and his takes his girlfriend home, showing us he's a pretty good guy. As Ian is heading home on a rainy highway, a monster attacks and he gets hit by a train. Cue his next life.

Ian wakes up in a corporate office where he does . . . spreadsheets or something to that effect. He and everyone has new memories of these lives, so he figures he had a bad dream while napping at his desk.

This will continue for a bit, where Ian is like, "You're crazy, man." until he joins the audience to embracing the weird. Once the awkward phase has passed, the film's main concept kicks off and goes until the credits roll.Which is dealing with monsters, being scared and/or tortured, and killing himself to rest the timer when the monsters get too close. It's pretty rad.

What I like about the plot is that it's full on genre. The plot doesn't try to streamline itself for the mainstream, and it knows not to stay too long to become sluggish. It's a balancing act of always getting us to want more. We get Ian entering new lives, the lives playing out in entertaining ways, and an actually satisfying ending to the whole ordeal.

The Deaths of Ian Stone is one of the most well produced films from the 8 Films to Die For list, if not the best. Stan Winston's company gets credit for the great monster designs. They're super cool to see. I love prosthetics. Sure, there is CGI thrown around as well, but it seems the majority of the effects are actually physical, there is little worry to the movie not aging well. Another point is that the physical scenes, like Ian being thrown through walls of glass, are made more engaging because of it.

And horror movies get a bad rep for looking cheap, but not here. I think it's the lighting, lots of strong daylight scenes and shadowy night scenes. Many of the horror scenes take place in bright environments and are effective. Very clean, very crisp. Different, yet effective.

There's no cynicism or inept grittiness to be found. In the fabled stables as other After Dark shitflicks, this is an accomplishment. There is an interesting story to be told here, and it feels as if that was the hook. The central concept was the fun part to the filmmakers, instead of the blood, the guts, and the jump scares. These aspects make The Deaths of Ian Stone a more innocent horror movie.

Acting is good, and that's all that can be said. The dialogue is mainly what brings down the acting here. Mike Vogel portrays Ian Stone well through many of his scenes, which ranged from scared, confused, and determined. It gives Ian a very solid foundation. Jaime Murray plays Medea with more of an interesting backstory than every comes to fruition, giving a sense there was more to the script than what is shown. Christina Cole's Jenny is the one who is "reset" the most in each life, but I liked her portrayals as girlfriend, to business woman, to frustrated neighbor, to social worker. She's actually the most important to these scenes to grounding them to being "new lives" Ian gets thrown into.

I'm not holding anything back. Don't get me wrong, the plot's intelligence nosedives as soon as the main villain shows up dressed in leather, because reasons. Dialogue is more on the generic side, where it's not particularly offensive but it doesn't try to be better itself. The film really doesn't play with the idea of Ian entering different shittier lives as much as it could either. At the end of the day, it just isn't that original.

Hey, I'm not trying to paint the movie as perfect, because it's not. The film is endearing, it totally buys into it's concept, and every inch of it is having fun and giving its all along the way. Given the amount of time from when the film was first released to now, I say it's a damn good mark of quality that I not only remember it, but was excited to watch it again.

I honestly wanted a reason to rewatch this movie again. A blog post was the perfect excuse. I genuinely love this film. It has heart. I'm all about the monster angle, I'm all about the Groundhog's Day angle, I'm all about the stereotypical romance angle (Kissy Emoji). Oh buddy, this is my jam.

The movie hits all the right chords for me. The worst part is that the DVD has zero in the way of special features. No deleted scenes or even a trailer. Ideally, I would have loved a standard Behind the Scene to see what the cast and crew thought of the production.