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Monday, January 18, 2010

Lo -- DVD review by porfle

LO (2009) is a strange little film that does a lot with very little. While shot in color, it looks as though it might've emerged from the same dingy corner of David Lynch's subconscious where ERASERHEAD was conceived--yet in its own way, LO is much more lighthearted, accessible, and ultimately quite moving.

After a cool intro with lots of glittering shards of metal floating out of the darkness and coalescing into the title, there's a beautiful overhead shot of Ward Roberts as "Justin" lighting a circle of candles that gradually illuminate the pentagram he's sitting in. Using a spell from a mysterious book that he really shouldn't have, Ward will summon the demon Lo and command him to scour the depths of Hell for his girlfriend April (a radiant Sarah Lassez), who was abducted by a demon named Jeez (Devin Barry) for reasons unknown.

The rest of the film consists of Lo (marvelously played by Jeremiah Birkett in a great full-body monster suit) trying to discourage Ward from pursuing April while constantly intimidating him and testing his resolve. Birkett strikes just the right balance of subtlety and theatricality in his performance, skillfully using his voice and body movements to bring out Lo's personality through the heavy makeup.

It's funny watching him switch from scary, demonic bluster to his "regular guy" tone ("Where the f*** are we, anyway?" he asks after taking a look at the dingy apartment he's been summoned into). Meanwhile, Ward Roberts, who resembles a somewhat cartoony cross between John Rubinstein and Bob Denver, gets to emote his head off as Justin and manages to inject a lot of energy and feeling into the rather static proceedings.

What might've become a diabolical version of MY DINNER WITH ANDRE is given a visual boost by having Lo bring Justin's memories of April to life through reenactments on a Bird Cage Theater-type stage. With crudely-painted backdrops and supporting players hanging around backstage, Justin and April dramatize their first meeting in a cafe', their first Christmas together (during which she gives him the book), and the night Jeez showed up to take her away. The laconic Jeez, who sounds like a demonic surfer dude, also stars in one of the movie's delightful musical moments as he and the Go To Hell Boys perform "Demon Girl", a song which reveals some interesting facts about April's true nature.

Since much of what we see is derived from Justin's fevered mind, writer-director Travis Betz is free to indulge in wacky comedy and surrealism while presenting a story with a serious undercurrent. Even the over-the-top performances of Ward Roberts as Justin and Sarah Lassez as April remain believable enough throughout, while Birkett makes nary a mistep as the title character. This allows the story to end on a surprise note of genuine emotion which I found to be imaginative and moving, giving the entire film an unexpected resonance that lasts through the fadeout.

The DVD from SYNKRONIZED and Entertainment One is in 16x9 widescreen with both 5.1 surround and 2.0 Dolby Digital sound. I watched a screener so I can't comment on extras, if any.

If you're looking for a raucous horror comedy with lots of mindless action and gore, LO will probably bore you to tears. But if you can tune into the cockeyed vibe that Travis Betz is going for here, you may find yourself having quite a rewarding time knocking around inside this impressive indy flick's freaky little head.


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