Lake Dead / The Deaths of Ian Stone / Unearthed
Crazy Eights / Tooth & Nail / Nightmare Man / Borderland

STUDIO: Lions Gate
MSRP: $14.99
RUNNING TIME: 87 minutes

Miss Horrorfest 2007 Contest webisodes

The Pitch

Cowards die a thousand deaths, heroes die only once…but Ian Stone has a friggin’ franchise on it.

The Humans

Mike Vogel, Jaime Murray, Christina Cole, Michael Feast.

First death?  By calling Jason Statham a pussy…

The Nutshell

Ian Stone (Vogel) is an ordinary young man in every respect, except for one thing: he finds himself constantly pursued by demonic entities who kill him repeatedly in bloody fashion. Upon each death, he wakes up in a new life with very little memory of his previous existences. The only constants besides the demons are a beautiful young woman named Jenny (Cole) and a mysterious stranger, Gray (Feast) who pops into a life every now and then to try to warn Ian of his impending fate. As Ian progresses through life upon life, he starts gaining clues as to the reason he’s being hunted and each death brings him closer to the grim truth of his existence.

Second death?  Forced to watch Lake Dead

The Lowdown

The Deaths of Ian Stone is definitely one of the better Horrorfest offerings, if that’s saying much with this collection. Nevertheless, it is the most high concept of all the films to die for and early on has a taut narrative that, early on, is reminiscent of Dark City. While nowhere near the level of that film, Deaths nevertheless manages to come up with a fairly unique concept and tell it in an entertaining fashion with some decent special effects and serviceable direction by helmer Dario Piana. However, around halfway through it ultimately suffers a gap or two in logic and devolves into a boilerplate good vs. evil parable that reeks of Ghost Rider

“So do you know what’s going to kill you this time?”
“Yeah, the subway fare hikes…”

Deaths centers on Stone, who begins the story as a talented but brash college hockey player who blows a game winning goal. Although his girlfriend, Jenny, tries to comfort him, he’s bothered more by the circumstances of his life in general. On his way home on a rainy night, he comes across a body at a railroad crossing. The shadowy form kills him by holding him in front of the oncoming train and Stone then wakes up as an office worker who’s behind in his paperwork. In this iteration, he enjoys an evening of lovemaking with his girlfriend, Medea (Murray), who also tries to assuage his uneasiness. He also meets Gray, a stranger who warns him of his impending death at the hands of more of the shadowy figures who killed him in his previous life. Stone barely has time to process this warning before he’s being pursued and killed again. Any stoppage of a clock signifies that the end is near.

This death was by a gas leak.  It’s the silent killer.

Stone then proceeds through a series of varying lives as a cab driver, a junkie and a hospital patient, with predictable endings at the hands of the same shadowy wraiths that are determined to end each life he awakens to in violent fashion. However, Stone manages to hang on to a small piece of each of his previous lives into the successive lives and in various roles,Jenny is always there: as a cab fare, a neighbor, co-worker nurse, etc. Gray manages to fill in Stone on who the shadow wraiths are and why they’re constantly killing him. Eventually Stone, with Gray’s help, manages to learn what the secret of his existence is and he uses it to confront his tormentors.

If you guessed Death By Matrix Sequel, go to the head of the class.

The beginning of Deaths of Ian Stone initially is a taut thriller that stylishly follows the mystery of who Ian Stone is and why he’s constantly being killed.  Each iterative life reveals a small piece of the overall mystery and there are one or two surprises that broadside you nicely as that mystery unfolds. Vogel (Cloverfield), who echoes Ryan Phillippe more than a little, holds down the movie well in the initial phases, and he conveys effectively the dread under which Stone constantly lives and he’s empathetic as he finds himself in the mother of all conundrums. But then his character mandate turns from the mysteriously tormented to B-movie action hero that just doesn’t work. The baddies of the piece, called Harvesters, are something fairly new and look good onscreen as shadowy apparitions with a penchant for skewering people with big preying mantis-like claws. Cole and Murray are also suitably fine as Jenny and Medea respectively.

“So we’re going to kill him by overdose this time?”
“No, by HMO bill…”

Where the film starts to lose steam, however is that once the mystery becomes known, Stone must confront the Harvesters and that confrontation and the impetus behind it is more than a bit reminiscent of Ghost Rider, and not for the better. There’s also seemingly gaps in logic in that the Harvesters are looking for Stone’s secret and any accomplices, but they seem to have learned those elements fairly early in the movie but don’t exploit them. Furthermore, Stone is virtually handed the keys to the mystery by another character rather than discover the answers for himself which hurts the film storywise. Although Deaths is ultimately unable to sustain the promise of the first half, it’s still not a bad watch

This death courtesy of Ghost extras…

The Package

The film looks good in 2.35:1 Anamorphic, although there’s some messiness in some of the shadowy areas; and the sound is also good in Dolby Digital 5.1. There are some good visuals, such as when Stone is sent literally crashing through one of his lives. The Harvesters also come across well.  Still, no extras beyond the requisite Miss Horrorfest 2007 Contest webisodes. Really could have used some input from producer Stan Winston on this.

“OK, this shit’s really gettin’ old…”

6.5 out of 10