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THE DEATHS OF IAN STONE

Originality is an increasingly rare commodity in today’s horror movie scene, which is why you’ve got to admire something like THE DEATHS OF IAN STONE. No, it’s not all that good, but in this case I’m willing to grade on a curve.

The Package
     This film has been called the GROUNDHOG DAY of horror flicks, due to its concept of a man who’s killed repeatedly and so has to relive the same day over and over again. It’s an English-American co-production produced by special effects wiz Stan Winston, who also created the winged monsters that play a large part in the film. It was released theatrically and on DVD in the U.S. as part of After Dark Films’ 2008 “Horrorfest,” the second edition of this festival of genre films allegedly considered too dark and/or intense for mainstream exhibition. It was widely proclaimed the best of the Horrorfest’s “Eight Films to Die For.”

The Story
     One night Ian Stone, a young American stationed in England, is attacked by a scary winged monster that drags him into the path of an oncoming train. He seems to die but immediately comes to as a suit-wearing office worker.
     The next morning a strange man accosts Ian on the street. The man informs him that “They” control reality and have been murdering him every day, and will continue to do so until Ian “does what they want.” Ian runs off, back to his apartment--where he’s unexpectedly killed by his girlfriend Medea.
     He comes to again, this time as a cab driver in the act of dropping off a young blond named Jenny at her home. He’s again accosted by a strange man, who warns Ian that “whatever you do, don’t let them find her”--“her” apparently meaning Jenny. But then a creature drops out of the sky and kills Ian, and he snaps to in an employment office, speaking to Jenny--but he’s chased out once again by winged beasties, and killed yet again.
     This time he comes back as a junkie and Jenny his hapless caretaker. He’s chased by the monsters once again, and they nearly kill him--until Jenny steps in and saves him. The two escape on a subway, where another mysterious man fills Ian in on what’s going on: the man and his fellow monsters are immortal “Harvesters” who feed on human fear and pain. It seems Ian was once a powerful Harvester himself but somehow upset his fellows, who can’t kill him but are doing the best they can to keep him down. With this in mind he commits suicide before the Harvesters can get to him.
     Ian’s next incarnation is as a strapped-down patient in a nightmarish hospital. In this state his former GF Medea interrogates Ian, and reveals the reason the Harvesters are so interested in him: as a Harvester Ian killed one of his own and they want to know how he did it. Jenny is a nurse in this hospital where, it seems, the twisted saga of Ian Stone is finally going to conclude.

The Direction
     The aforementioned GROUNDHOG DAY was an evident influence on THE DEATHS OF IAN STONE, and there are also shades of JACOB’S LADDER, DARK CITY and THE MATRIX, but overall it’s fairly original. The screenplay by Brendan Hood (of 2002's THEY) is suitably horrific and intelligent in the way it reveals portions of Ian and Jenny’s actual history in the different realities they inhabit, and does so in a budget-friendly manner--meaning the film’s evident low budget never compromises the story or characterizations.
     What the film lacks is a compelling cinematic treatment. Dario Piana’s direction is competent but quite bland: in look and feel this film is identical to quite a few post-millennium horror flicks (among other things it over-relies on CGI), with little outside the script to distinguish it. That goes for the middling creature effects by Stan Winston, who’s capable of far better, and the performances of Mike Vogel and Christina Cole in the lead roles, who make little impression (the most memorable performance is by Jaime Murray as Medea, and that’s largely because she’s outfitted in skintight leather most of the time). Again, though, the film is original enough in its conception that it deserves a look, even if it isn’t entirely successful in its execution.
 

Vital Statistics

THE DEATHS OF IAN STONE
After Dark Films/Odyssey Entertainment

Director: Dario Piana
Producers: Stan Winston, Brian Gilbert, Ralph Kamp
Screenplay: Brendan Hood
Cinematography: Stefano Morcaldo
Editing: Celia Haining
Cast: Mike Vogel, Jaime Murray, Christina Cole, Michael Feast, Charlie Anson, Michael Dixon, George Dillon, Marnix Van Den Broeke, Andrew Buchan

     

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