MAY 16, 2010
The film Lo has been available on Netflix instant for a while now, but I wanted the DVD, because I figured it would have some cool extras, based on what little I knew about the film (chiefly, that it was shot for two grand in a single room). But sadly the DVD redefines bare-bones - the main menu has “Play” and “Scenes”. Not even some goddamn subtitles?
Though maybe the subs just couldn’t fit on the disc, since this is a very talky movie. If you want a lot of action and such, I’d steer very clear of this movie, as it’s essentially one long 80 minute conversation between a lovesick guy and the demon he has summoned to help him find his girlfriend. Their scenes take place in a single location, on the floor of a room that we cannot see. Flashback scenes take place in (intentionally) cheesily painted sets that wouldn’t look out of place in a grade school play. Sometimes writer/director Travis Betz works in jokes about the setup - at one point the demon (the titular Lo) claims he doesn’t like the setting and suggests mixing it up a bit, at which point the light over his head changes color. It’s a top notch sight gag.
And the minimalist approach also pays off in the end, though it’s a bit vague. My interpretation differs from others I talked to, which means I’m probably wrong, but mine is the only one that gives the “set” a deeper meaning beyond “it looked cool and was a way to save money”. So I dunno.
Betz’ methods to pad the film to a respectable running time aren’t quite as successful. Right off the bat I was worried, as it takes a full minute and a half for the title to appear in full on screen. As you might have noticed, Lo is a very short title (the 2nd shortest in HMAD history, after P), and thus shouldn’t take more than maybe half a second to appear. And in the middle of the movie our hero says “Goddammit” over and over for like a minute or so. And while I loved the first musical number (a 50s style pop ballad called “Demon Girl”), the 2nd I could have definitely done without. All told, there’s about 15 minutes that probably could have been shaven off the running time.
And yes, the demon singing does look a bit like Lorne from Angel, which is a distraction only exacerbated when he starts singing. So what? Name one monster/demon in recent horror movie history that didn’t slightly resemble an older one. And then compare that to Lo’s budget - familiarity or not, it and Lo are remarkable creations that I would have thought would cost more a piece than the entire film did. So shaddup!
What I really dug about the movie was that it took a very supernatural and strange approach to what is ultimately a very simple story, of a guy who is afraid to let go (again, this is going with my interpretation of the ending, which is that it was all in his head). Instead of the usual indie “hey let’s just sort of rip off Kevin Smith” approach to a guy who just had his heart broken, Betz and co. did something unique and original, and also found a bunch of capable actors (never a true indie film’s strong suit). Even with minimal characterization, I got to really like Ward Roberts (Justin), and even though he’s pretty much just sitting on the floor for the entire movie, he’s one of the better horror movie “heroes” in recent memory. More often than not, I’m caring about the male lead just because I am familiar with and like the actor (Ryan Reynolds in Amityville '05 comes to mind), but I don’t know this guy from Adam, and yet I was totally in his corner by the end of the first act. And Sarah Lassez is also a delight, playing what the AV Club might call a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, but without the ironic detachment that usually makes me hate such characters (see: pretty much any Zooey Deschanel character).
Like I said earlier, the film won’t be for everyone, and even its biggest fans have an issue or two with it, but like I’ve also said more often - give me an original approach (story AND design) to a simple story and I’m on board. Even casual moviegoers complain that they don’t see enough originality anymore - I watch these things every day! So something that doesn’t remind me of 562 other movies is automatically a win for me. Whether or not it’s perfect is irrelevant - the movie could have been flat out BAD and I still would have been happy that it was at least doing something new and interesting. Kudos to all involved.
What say you?