Monday, June 9, 2008

The Deaths Of Ian Stone

The Deaths of Ian Stone is not quite a successful movie, falling flat at the end, but does have some interesting ideas, and the first half is not bad at all. Ian (Mike Vogel, last seen running from Cthulhu Jr. in Cloverfield) is a student at university in Great Britain, and the movie opens with him playing for the college hockey team in a heated match. (This is a quibble, but do they even have university ice hockey teams in Britain? If anyone knows the answer to this, I’m curious.) After he blows the game by hogging the puck, he drives home, but stops when he sees someone lying motionless in the middle of the road. Getting out to help, he learns to regret the Good Samaritan impulse when the guy in the road turns into a monster, grabs him, and throws him in front of an oncoming train, killing him. (There is something cruelly Darwinish about horror movies. Characters who show compassion usually bite it.)

Wow, what a short movie. Still it was kinda cool…Oh, yeah, wait, the title says Deaths not Death. Ian wakes up in a strange apartment, remembering his abrupt intro to fuel-efficient transportation only as a dream. This starts a cycle, in which Ian is repeatedly killed, and then goes to a steadily drearier new existence, remembering only bits and pieces of what happened. What the heck is happening? Fortunately, our old friend Exposition Guy shows up to tell Ian (and us). Sadly for Ian, Exposition Guy follows movie convention, and instead of explaining to poor Ian everything at once as he should, he gives him a bit at a time before disappearing. “You must protect the girl!” EG yells, vanishing before Ian can ask “What girl?” and then Ian is crushed by a falling anvil.

This continues until gradually Ian, whose character was obviously stolen from Kenny in South Park, gets the whole story. The creatures that kakk him over and over are pretty neat. They can look like ordinary humans, but their appendages turn insect-like when they need to skewer someone. They can also appear as a dark, ghostly presence when they’re in the mood. Since monster-maker Stan Winston produced this, it’s no surprise they look pretty good.

The early part of the movie is good entertainment as we try to figure out why Ian is so spectacularly screwed. It does have problems. First of all, the viewer figures things out about fifteen minutes before Ian, and you get pretty impatient with him for not thinking faster. Secondly, every existence Ian experiences gets worse, so for about twenty minutes he is immobilized in a hospital bed, which throws things down considerably. (During his final incarnation, the creatures resort to dressing like Sprockets, but maybe that’s only a problem to me.) It also has major third act problems, and the ending is pretty flat.

Still, not the worst time waster I’ve seen, and miles ahead of most of the other Eight Films To Die For offerings.

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