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rochefort [Film Festival 11.02.09] movie review horror comedy romance

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Year: 2009
Directors: Travis Betz
Writers: Travis Betz
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: rochefort
Rating: 4 out of 10

Justin (Ward Roberts) is an unexceptional guy who works at the usual McJob. His life gets interesting with the arrival of April (Sarah Lassez), an eccentric little cutie whose only apparent possession is a book locked in a box that she carries everywhere she goes. Justin is immediately smitten with her, and before long she moves in and all seems right with the world. But April, see, is a demon, and her fellow minions of evil soon find her and take her back to hell. So lovesick Justin opens her locked box and uses the book, a tome for summoning demons, to call forth Lo (Jeremiah Birkett), a lesser demon of Hell, who must do whatever Justin commands as long as his steadily shrinking pentagram keeps the demon at bay. Justin orders Lo to return April to him, but getting a demon out of hell is even more difficult than it sounds. Billed as a "comedic love story... with demons!", "Lo" is a modern variation on the "Faust" story and has its clever moments, but ultimately its reach way exceeds its grasp.
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Travis Betz's third feature, "Lo" is what you get when you mix a Peter Greenaway or Ken Russell movie with one of the wackier episodes of "Buffy" or "Angel". Essentially a filmed stage play, most of the movie takes place in a single darkened environment with spotlights on the key characters, the occasional flashback presented in a very lo-fi, stylized set. The makeup designs, particularly those of the title character and his demon associate Jeez (Devin Barry), are top-notch and highly effective, which is especially important since they spend so much time onscreen, often in long takes. Since this is a (very) low-budget affair, the bulk of the film consists of an extended conversation between the two main characters as Lo tries to trick and distract Justin into abandoning his quest for April, and both Roberts and Birkett do fine work, good enough to distract us from the fact that both of them spend most of the running time sitting or lying in the same spot. Roberts is affably nerdy, and Birkett seems to be having a lot of fun making Lo both despicable and slovenly charming, often coming off like a zombified David Johansen. The rest of the cast doesn't fare as well, however. Lassez tries too hard to make April both weird and lovable, failing at both, and Barry's depiction of the bird-beaked, nasally fey Jeez gets seriously annoying within seconds. He's a demon, so I guess this is to be expected, but his is a real fingernails-on-a-chalkboard performance, and the film sinks drastically every minute he's onscreen.

But the biggest disappointment about "Lo" is the fact that it is simply too obviously padded. Clocking in at 82 minutes, it's easily twice as long as it deserves to be, and every scene suffers from Betz's need to make the runtime acceptably feature length. Cutaways and inserts hold too long, a bartender's dance number is thrown inexplicably into the mix, and as well-written as some of the dialogue is, it's apparent that not a single line was excised in the editing room. At one point Justin's hand becomes possessed and starts talking to him, and instead of enhancing the weirdness it simply reminds us of how much more exciting it was when Ash did the same thing in "Evil Dead 2". And every time the film returns to the aforementioned flashbacks, it pretty much sucks all the air out. The set is bordered by two mugging, gold-painted, "theatre of pain"-style faces who frown and smile at every other line. Weird comedy or not, they're so irritating that you can't help but wonder what the hell Betz was thinking, especially when he cuts away to them, again, for the thirtieth time.

And yeah, I can't help but feel like a bit of a jerk for being so harsh on what is clearly an ambitious little horror comedy. "Lo" easily stands out from the pack by shooting for much artier heights than most micro-budget pictures of its kind, and it's always tempting to root for the underdog. I had to consciously decide to sit on this review because I wanted to see if my opinion changed as a day or two went by; maybe, in light of just how rare it's becoming to see original and distinct new films, I would come around to Betz's vision and give this movie the slow-burn credit it perhaps deserves. But I can still remember walking out of the theater feeling like I'd just seen a technically-adept, but undeniably cloying, community college stage play. And now, days later, I'm convinced that the only version of "Lo" I could ever hope to enjoy would be the much, much shorter version it should have been in the first place.

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LoBitchj (4 years ago) Reply

I just watched Lo; this is the only review I could find anywhere. It looked badass, but dissapointed for all the reasons you mentioned above. Was the girl Lo? I think so, but it was so retarted that I wanted a confirmation. Could have been done in five minutes. Trailer was enough to take away entire story, plus some.

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The previous post should be removed. (4 years ago) Reply

Nice spoiler, jackass.

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Anonymous (4 years ago) Reply

I'm clearly a masochist as I just sat through watching this in it's too-short-but-still-way-too-long entirety. The ending was touching and the movie is almost something other than a sack of turds. Interesting and entertaining dialog, actor playing LO was super duper, lady actor was a cutie and the writer clearly has some chops. Would make a fun stage play, which i have to imagine was the original intention.
I say watch it cause it's something different, but only if you watched battlefield earth cause it was different.

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Anonymous (4 years ago) Reply

I can't argue with any of the points the reviewer makes, but I still found this movie to be both hilarious and touching, and somehow able to rise above the flaws. I've watched it twice and both times came away appreciating how such a low-budget movie and simple premise touched me on a personal level.

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Josh (4 years ago) Reply

I loved this movie and it really did blow away my expectations. I thought this was going to be a garbage, low budget film but it surprised me on all fronts. This movie definately deserves more than a 4/10

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KrisyMonster (4 years ago) Reply

I loved this movie, the fact that it is so low-budget makes it even funnier.
I've watched this movie several times and I laugh every single time. This is like Talladega Knights you know, you start quoting it after the very first time you watch it and bug everyone you know to watch it. This review did nothing good for the movie. The description gives most of the movie away too.
Jeez? His name is Jeeves. When you write a review not only do you need to know the names of the characters, you need to cover ALL points and possible view, not just yours if it the only review going up.

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Aaron (3 years ago) Reply

Actually KrisyMonster, I agree with your comments, but he is correct with "Jeez." It is written on the poster behind the band. Check it out.

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KrisyMonster (3 years ago) Reply

Yeah, I noticed that after I posted my comment. My bad! I wasn't exactly thinking to check something like that becuase I was appalled that such a close minded review would be posted on anymove as the default review. So I formally appologize for being incorrect about "Jeez", but I stand by the rest of my comment.

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Anonymous (3 years ago) Reply

A movie review covering "ALL points and possible view?" You read a review knowing that it is a particular person's opinion. I'd be appalled to read a movie review where the author didn't form their own opinion of the film, but rather tried to regurgitate the opinions of others and make sure everyone's views were represented. The author is only obligated to express his or her own opinions.

And as far as the review being "close minded" goes, I think it's fairly obvious from a single read through that the author gave the film a chance. Even wanted to like it. Which is where I agree. I wanted to like this movie, but it really fell short in many ways.

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Anonymous (3 years ago) Reply

I really liked this movie it's hillarious and the reviewer seemed just to be bashing on it I agree the trailer totalty ruins the movie and bartender was random.

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Ryan (3 years ago) Reply

From this movie I got the impression that in fact April was just some girl that got taken by the demons and the whole time Lo was just messing with Justin's head and showing Justin what he wanted/expected to see and experience when his love was being tested. Thoughts on this take?

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Mrs. C. Latimore (3 years ago) Reply

I think this film was well worth watching. The ending was superb! 5 Stars for a Low-Budget Film.

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Gypsy_MLP:FiM (2 years ago) Reply

Uh this movie was unbelievably awesome and funny, BARTENDER MADE THE MOVIE

5-er


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