July 18, 2011 4 Comments
One of my favorite things about the horror genre is that it’s so unrestrictive. Like Sci-Fi and Fantasy, there are so many themes to explore that it’s really difficult to pigeon-hole it into one type of film. Yes, most of the mainstream releases tend to fall into the “teenagers in peril” or “killer on the loose” motif but every once in a while a film comes along that stands everything we typically think of as horror right on its head.
Few and far between are these moments, but finding talented young filmmakers that seek to put a unique twist on the genre is what keeps me interested. That’s where a film like Lo comes in. Written and directed by Travis Betz, this film is a couple of years old, but it slipped under the radar and it is most certainly different.
Justin (Ward Roberts) is having a tough time. He’s a geeky guy that has finally met the girl of his dreams in April (Sarah Lassez). Unfortunately, before their romance can truly blossom, Justin and April are attacked in their bedroom by a demon and in an act of self-sacrifice April allows the demon to take her to hell in exchange for Justin’s life. The only item she has left behind is a strange book which seems to be bound in flesh, has an ominous looking eye peering out of it and contains spells that summon demons from the underworld. Although Justin was instructed by April to never open the book and to in fact burn it, what’s a lovelorn guy to do? Draw a pentagram in his apartment, light up some candles and follow the instructions to summon the demon Lo (Jeremiah Birkett) to help him find April in the recesses of hell, of course!
Lo is a scary looking demon, but he’s a crack up. Spouting out insults and taunts and taking great pleasure watching Justin tremble in fear. Lo tells Justin that hell is a big place and it would be impossible to find April and bring her back. But demons are liars and Justin soon discovers that nothing Lo says can be trusted.
It’s here the movie shifts to some bizarre flashback scenes presented like a stage play with representations of Justin and April “acting” out their relationship in short vignettes. Justin is then introduced to the demon who took April, the flamboyant Jeez (Devin Barry). Jeez, with his lizard-shaped head and swastika attire is more personable than Lo, but just as shady. It’s through him that Justin discovers the horrifying truth about April and who (or what) she really is.
Lo is a hard movie to classify. This film is very quirky. And by quirky I mean characters spontaneously break into musical numbers, the theatrical comedy/tragedy masks show up as women with gold painted faces who react to the action, and our hero has multiple arguments with his inner thoughts through a knife wound in his hand. This wackiness will turn a lot of people off and truth be told, Lo isn’t for everyone. The entire film takes place in one room. In fact, Lo would make an excellent stage play.
The dialogue is at times clever and quite comical as when Lo chooses to call Justin “Dinner” throughout the film referencing what Lo plans to do to him should he make the mistake of stepping outside his protective pentagram.
Or when Justin is tricked into drinking poison and asks Jeez if there is anything that can be done to save him; Jeez’ response: “Get to a hospital…. Pump it out.” The obviousness and absurdity of that line is an example of what makes the film shine. That Justin assumes supernatural intervention is the only thing that can save him and somehow, even in the demon world, poison can be extracted by a stomach pump.
If there is one flaw, I wish Betz did a better job of developing the relationship between Justin and April. In the few flashback sequences, the viewer never really gets a true sense of why Justin feels so strongly for April that he would risk his own soul for her. In that respect, the characters are somewhat under developed and one-dimensional.
Lo is not scary or action-packed, there aren’t any spectacular effects, the make-up is adequate at best and some of the performances are woefully cornball. What sets Lo apart is the unique style it exhibits, up to and including its surprisingly touching ending.
If you’re still curious about this oddity, check out the trailer, (which is cut slicker than the actual film), below: