Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Deaths of Ian Stone (2007)

Note: This review is part of my coverage of Horrorfest II.

The Deaths Of Ian Stone

From the scant pre-press I heard, it sounded like this was the most interesting, original, and anticipated of this year's Horrorfest films. It certainly has a lot going for it, though ultimately I'm not about to judge it as a masterpiece. It's really a bit of a sci-fi/horror. The premise is that a man named Ian Stone finds that, for some reason, he dies every day, and wakes up the next day in a completely different life. Now this doesn't even hint at the sci-fi undertones going on. The reality is that Ian is a Harvester, though he's forgotten. The Harvesters are a race of entities that have a lot of power to manipulate reality. They usually appear to people in the form of a sinister shadowy figure, and they feed off of people's fear. Somewhere along the line, they got into feeding off of pain, and learned that the anticipation of a violent death is the greatest source of man's fear. So that's what they like to go for to get nourishment. Well, at least one Harvester has found a different emotion to feed on, and it's called love. He backs out of the game, but the Harvesters try to pull him back in. He'll have to regain his memory and extract enough power from love to be able to kill even the Harvesters, who are not supposed to be able to die. Who will prevail?

Something that bugs me about this film is how it feels like a thinly veiled warning against drug addiction. And I'm not sure if that level of symbolism actually enriches the film, or just cheapens it. More than once you see a "Say No To Drugs" advertisement "inconspicuously" placed in the film. The Harvesters' feeding on fear is described a lot like getting a hit, and their desire to get Ian back among their ranks, and to destroy the girl that has shown him a brighter existence, seems a lot like a group of junkies struggling to keep you in the habit, to deny you of the light they aren't strong enough to reach for themselves. Furthermore, as Ian weakens from life to life, having gone a while without feeding, he slowly gravitates towards a drug-adled existence. He starts out as a Hockey player - athletic, healthy. Then he becomes an office worker with an arthouse girlfriend - one step closer to the "hip" scene. He says he just quit "the pipe". Then he becomes an unemployed bum, even closer to the streets. Finally, he gets to be an actual junkie. And then he ends up an invalid strapped to a hospital bed, vulnerable to the Harvesters' torture. But of course love will make him clean in the end, and give him the power to conquer the Harvesters, to push them out of his life, and destroy their influence over him. Are you seeing the parable?

Anyhow, it was still a good film, all moral issues aside. The idea of living a different life each day, and dying every time is fascinating, and I feel like it could be used for an even better story, if taken in a different direction. Still, the Harvesters were pretty cool, with shadowy tendrils that form into thick blades. And I liked their vinyl outfits. They're no Cenobites, though. Some aspects of the movie had a vaguely Jacob's Ladder kind of feel. Particularly in the way the Harvesters shake their heads back and forth after they absorb some fear. And the whole feeling of knowing something's not right in your life but not understanding what exactly is wrong. It's no competition, however.

I don't know that there was any ultra-explicit material in this film. The whole thing had more tension and atmosphere, though, compared to Unearthed, which just kind of blasted you with a lot of sound and flashing lights during the action sequences, leaving you to guess what was actually happening (and not in the, "ooh, I can't see what he's doing, it must be terrible!" kind of way). Certainly, the moral of the story is well-adjusted enough. The only trouble with it being an "after-school special" is that most kids can't handle this kind of horror material. Oh well.

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