out of Five
Running time: 86
No One Lives is a gleefully trashy, darkly funny exploitation horror-slash-thriller with inventive gore scenes, a knowing script and an intriguing central performance from Luke Evans.
What's it all about?
Directed by Ryuhei Kitamura, No One Lives begins with an unnamed man (Luke Evans - the credits refer to him as "Driver") driving into a small northwestern town while having an argument with his girlfriend Betty (Laura Ramsey). When they stop at a motel, they have a violent encounter with a group of vicious criminals (Derek Magyar, Beau Knapp, America Olivo and Brodus Clay) led by cool-headed Hoag (Lee Tergesen), but the gang quickly realise they might have bitten off more than they can chew when "Driver" turns out to be a psychopathic killer with a penchant for inventive murderising.
Luke Evans is excellent as the psychopathic Driver - indeed, this is an unusual example of a horror film where the quote-unquote "hero" is scarier than the villains. There's also strong support from Lee Tergesen, Derek Magyar (as Flynn, Hoag's trigger happy second-in-command) and Adelaide Clemens as Emma, a kidnapped heiress the gang find in the trunk of Driver's car, who tries to warn them that Driver is much more dangerous than he first appears.
The gore scenes are extremely inventive (Death by clipboard! Death by remote control!) and the knowing script has a lot of fun with its original premise. In addition, Kitamura's assured direction strikes exactly the right balance between gore and darkly funny moments, largely by getting the cast to play it as straight as possible.
The film takes a calculated risk in making the "hero" as sadistically nasty as the villains and it's an intriguing experiment in terms of the game it plays with traditional audience expectations, but it still means that you're effectively left with no one to root for. In addition, the dialogue often leaves something to be desired (sample line: "If I wanted to hear from an asshole, I'd rip you a new one!") and could probably have done with a quick polish.
No One Lives is an enjoyably trashy horror-thriller with an original premise, inventive gore scenes and a strong central performance from Luke Evans, though it's slightly let down by some subpar dialogue. Worth seeing, all the same.