Here is a typical horror movie scenario: an innocent couple stop at a highway bar only to be kidnapped later by the local ugly rednecks who will take turn torturing them. Usually the girl lives, or almost lives, after suffering a horrible ordeal leaving the door open for several cheap sequels because the villains are still alive despite suffering many terrible injuries themselves. In “No One Lives,” writer David Cohen asks, “what if the bad guys kidnapped the very last couple on Earth they should have kidnapped?” Do things take a bloody turn for the worse? Its director, Ryuhei Kitamura once made a movie called “The Midnight Meat Train” so that should give you an idea.
The movie’s highway couple is Betty (Laura Ramsey) and an unknown Driver (Luke Evans). The two have an unusual relationship, as Betty looks at her man with both affection and a certain amount of fear. She accuses him of lacking emotions, but he says he simply processes them differently. When they stop at a restaurant, Flynn (Derek Magyar) a trigger-happy thug who works with a local gang of criminals accosts them and looks leeringly at Betty. In a tense moment the Driver slowly reaches for a steak knife, but Betty calms him down out of fear of what he might do.
Later in the evening, Flynn and a fellow gang member rams the couple’s car off the road. He takes their car to the gang’s hideout while the other thug stays behind at an abandoned gas station to torture the couple for their bank accounts. So far it’s same old same old. That is until Flynn opens the couple’s trunk and finds Emma (Adelaide Clemens), a young heiress who was kidnapped months ago after a massacre at her college. Meanwhile at the gas station things go horribly wrong and the Driver gets very angry.
At the hideout the gang analyze the situation. A family unit headed by a father (Lee Tergersen), they argue about what to do with Emma, who tells them they should run immediately before her kidnapper tracks her down. Flynn is not in a rush to let her go when a news report says she is worth $2 million. Unfortunately the Driver has found them and is very displeased with the evening’s events. Finding herself stuck between a rock and a hard place, Emma decides her best chance of survival is to sit back and let the best villain win. In fact she almost seems to be enjoying herself as the gang slowly realize what they are dealing with.
This Driver is not your average killer. In fact there almost seems to be a military precision to his slaughter. His vehicle is filled with an arsenal he uses to trap the family inside their home. In this guy’s hands, even a pair of handcuffs is a deadly weapon so imagine what he can do with the wood chipper in the shed. Evans plays him as a well-spoken and even charismatic individual who is fully aware he is a psychopath. He even has somewhat of an ego, saying he hates common criminals because they are so mediocre. Well, you can’t deny he is creative.
This movie is hyper-violent, gory, and with a fair bit of gratuitous nudity. It is also a bloody good time. Some of the kills are so over the top it’s almost funny. The fact the people getting killed are mostly vicious criminals themselves makes this a guilty pleasure. There is a reason “Dexter” was so popular in its first seasons. When a vicious monster is killing other monsters, who do you root for?
This is a definitely a genre film aimed at fans of R-rated violence, but the killers of this genre are usually forgettable maniacs who barely utter a word. This is one of the rare occasions when you wish for a sequel in order to learn more about this monster’s history. Mediocre he is not.
("No One Lives" is available on DVD and Blu-Ray.)