I figured before I sat down to watch the most hyped films of the winter, I’d schedule in one more low-budget, limited release flick. This film made its debut at the After Dark Horror Fest earlier this year and duly disappeared again. That’s a shame because the individuals I spoke with who attended the event said this movie was one of the better showings (it’s the reason I’m watching it now). The movie I speak of is The Deaths of Ian Stone.
On the surface, the concept for The Deaths of Ian Stone is quite interesting. Brendan Hood took the time to piece together a novel idea – a story about a guy, Ian Stone (Mike Vogel) who gets killed by shadow-shifting spectral creatures, only to be resurrected in a life which closely resembles his last. Each time he is resurrected however, the creatures hunt him down and kill him again. And again. And again. This is quite understandably bad enough, but making it worse is the fact that each time he comes back, he is has fleeting memories of his past lives – as a college hockey player, a taxi driver, a corporate drone and a junkie, just to name a few. Each time he comes back, he tries frantically to figure out what the hell is going on and just as he thinks he’s figured something out, he’s running for his life again.
The shortcomings of the film actually come from the delivery of it. First time director, Dario Piana, doesn’t dictate the pace of the movie very well. At first, The Deaths of Ian Stone just plods along at an surprisingly slow pace. I’m not sure what I was expecting – perhaps more urgency or at least a feeling that I was, in fact, watching a thriller/horror movie. When things do pick up, I found the action to be jarring and short-lived. The problem was that not enough time was spent with each incarnation. Just as Ian finds himself in a new life, he is quite literally vanquished five minutes later. While this abruptness does give the viewer an insight into the craziness of the situation he finds himself in, the number of times it occurs should have been scaled back to really drive home his attempts at survival.
On the other hand, for a low-budget feature, the acting and special effects are mostly good. Mike Vogel comes across a good choice for the lead role. He’s a been around long enough to know his good looks will only get him so far. He doesn’t overdo each of his characters’ personas like he was back in an acting class; he maintains a commonality across them all which I felt was key to the believability of the role. Jaime Murray as Medea (one of the lead harvesters), tended to exaggerate her evilness a bit too much, but that could be easily overlooked since she looks fantastic in her leather/vinyl suit. Look out Carrie-Anne Moss, another actress seeks your crown! Ian’s love interest, Jenny (Christina Cole) did enough to not detract from the movie, although I would have preferred it if she portrayed the role in a tougher fashion.
As for the effects, I was pleasantly surprised at the outcome. The spectral hunters morphed from shadowy wisps to human form to creature form (or in any other combination) in a very fluid fashion. They tended to be scarier in their shadowy forms more so than their creature form but that is a personal preference. Their weapon of choice was to reform their arm into an Alien-like blade, in a similar fashion as the T-1000 did in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The first few times it is cool to watch, but to keep it fresh, I would have liked to have seen additional ways for them to kill their prey.
So while I wouldn’t necessarily call The Deaths of Ian Stone much of a horror film, it definitely has its moments to give you a feeling of dread now and again. The movie excels more as a science-fictiony/fantasy thiller – mixing in mysterious occult type creatures and scenarios with a touch of suspense (after all we’d like to know why this is happening to Ian). Obviously, you won’t be seeing this at the movie theater, so you’re only shot to see it is by picking it up the DVD when it gets released sometime in the near future. Check it out as a backup option if you can’t get your hands on the movie you really wanted.