The Deaths of Ian Stone (2007)

16 Nov

I couldn't find any really great pictures of the monsters anywhere on the Internet. I assure you they're much more chill-inducing in action than they are just hanging out next to a hot chick.

The Deaths of Ian Stone” reminded me of nothing so much as an episode of “The X-Files,” but without the benefit of already having affection for the main characters. This type of nostalgic monster-of-the-week horror doesn’t bother me, but the film makes it abundantly clear early on that it’s going to answer all possible questions (rather unlike “The X-Files”), and that drains the suspense right out of it.

After a frustrating loss in an ice hockey game due to a strange clock malfunction, Ian Stone (Mike Vogel) is comforted by his girlfriend Jenny (Christina Cole). He leaves her at her parents’ house and is making his way home for the evening when he comes upon what appears to be a body lying across a train track. Unable to just leave the person there, Ian exits his vehicle and approaches the body. What he finds, however, is not human. The horrific entity attacks, brutally killing Ian.

Almost immediately, we are with Ian again. He jumps as if awakened from a nightmare. It seems some time has passed; he’s now working in some sort of office doing some sort of mid-level work. Jenny also works in the office, but she doesn’t seem to be his girlfriend or even relate to him in a way which would indicate a prior relationship. Ian goes home to girlfriend Medea (Jaime Murray), a darkly beautiful woman. He begins telling her about his past playing hockey, and she’s incredulous. When Ian retrieves a yearbook, he finds Medea’s skepticism is justified — he doesn’t appear in any of the team photos. He has nightmares that night about the same sort of terrifying creature which assaulted him before.

The next day, Ian is gripped by a vivid sense of dread. He avoids his usual bus and doesn’t go to work. He is found by a strange older man who hints that Ian’s life is in danger. The man warns Ian to pay attention to clocks and recurring faces. Ian does notice clocks stopping around him, and he makes his way back home where he believes he will be safe. But Medea is waiting. She reveals herself to be a Harvester, and she vows she and her kind will keep hunting Ian through each reality he can create. As he struggles to put the pieces together, he must outrun the relentless Harvesters and keep them from Jenny, the one constant in his many lives.

The problem with “The Deaths of Ian Stone” is mostly that it’s so rote and predictable. The early sequences, where Ian is completely lost as to what’s happening to him, are definitely scary. The design of the Harvesters is excellent, and the absolute uncertainty of what will happen next goes a long way to tighten the tension of the film. Sadly, the film sacrifices all this ambiguity and suspense in favor of spelling out exactly what’s happening. In doing so, the film obliterates the elements that were really working.

This is Ken Doll ... erm Ian Stone. I feel bad piling on; it's certainly not the actor's fault the character is so bland.

Because, let’s face it, when I say a movie reminds me of “The X-Files,” and yet there’s no obvious Mulder and Scully, the movie is already probably suffering a lack of intriguing characters. The first part of the plot is structured so strangely, so abstractly almost, that we don’t have much to go on for the titular character other than he seems to be a pretty All-American sort of guy. He plays hockey, he’s blonde, he has a blonde girlfriend. They seem fairly young, they seem fairly in love. But then the film kills off its character and jump-cuts to a new reality? Life? It’s never really clear. Anyway, in this life, which we’re not sure even is a new life — it could be that he was simply dreaming his other life as far as we know — he’s shacked up with Medea, who’s sexy but has a definite mysterious-in-the-bad-way aura happening. I felt really confused at this point: I see him with Jenny, and they seem to be completely in love, but was that just a dream and he’s with this other girl? This Ian Stone guy doesn’t seem like such a straight-shooter after all. See the dilemma?

Of course, we do eventually learn that Ian sort of is the All-American devoted-to-his-girlfriend guy we thought he was. Unfortunately, the movie gives this — and basically everything else — away far too soon. Once we realize Jenny keeps showing up in his alternate realities, it’s only a hop, skip and jump to figuring out exactly what’s going on. Sure, there’s a few twists and turns, but nothing so shocking as to get the audience really rattled again. The film is frightening for approximately the first 20 minutes or so, and then it just succumbs to the most obvious, twee explanation possible. Feel-good horror movies really aren’t my bag.

It’s always frustrating to see a film which so squanders its potential. “The Deaths of Ian Stone” had a jarring storyline and truly frightening creature design, but then wastes it on a plot straight out of a Care Bears movie. The only thing scary here is how utterly trite this movie becomes. One-and-a-half stars out of four.

The Deaths of Ian Stone“: Rated R. Starring Mike Vogel, Jaime Murray, Christina Cole, Michael Feast, Charlie Anson, Michael Dixon and George Dillon. Directed by Dario Piana. Written by Brendan Hood. Cinematography by Stefano Morcaldo. Art direction by Gerard Bryan. Original music by Elia Cmiral.

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