Good-hearted films are a sweet treat. When you watch such a cornucopia of nihilism, exploitation, cash-cow quickies and uninspired sequels, it's easy to grow jaded on genre cinema. Thankfully, there are always hidden gems that dare to be different or, dare we say it, simply nice. Today's feature, Travis Betz's 2009 Lo, is such an example.
Awkward young man Justin (Ward Roberts) pulls the shades down in his apartment in order to best summon Lo, a crippled demon with a mean sense of humor. Why invite a squirmy evil thing that looks like the cross between BatBoy and Voldemort into your home? Mostly to see if the fuzzy beast can find April, Justin’s lady love who was recently dragged into hell, leaving only a Necronomicon-ish book behind dog-eared to Lo’s instruction page.
But who was this quirky redhead and what about her deserved eternal torment? Over the course of the brisk 80 minute running time, Justin slowly learns a few secrets as he crouches inside his protective circle with Lo, its musically inclined Nazi coworker, and a pair of tortured souls with their own tragedy to tell.
Lo is the definition of an independent genre film: cheaply made, bursting with heart, and occasionally, too quirky for its own good. Written and directed by rogue autuer Travis Betz, Lo toys with a light-hearted Evil Dead 2ish attitude mixed with the pathos and wit of Joss Whedon’s Buffy, The results aren’t always perfect--some of Robers’ Bruce Campbell-esque ‘talk to the hand’ fell flat for me--but the overall effect makes for something far more interesting and worthwile than your average straight-to-DVD horror film.
As the titular demon, Jeremiah Berkitt knows how to deliver a snappy one-liner while still coming off as genuinely evil
The twist (unspoiled) succeeds quite well: not only does it surprise the audience, it also takes the film to a much sadder place that feels so fitting to its mythological tone
A shadow-cast cameo from a hell-sentenced couple was my personal favorite scene, funny in dialogue but also disgusting and vital to showing just how scary a place hell is
The first overly theatrical meet-cute flashback comes off as rather forced, trying way too hard to be clever and unique but possibly alienating some viewers in the process
When drawing a safety circle for demon summoning, be sure to give yourself enough leg room. And possibly, a chamber pot
Nazi demons have a soft spot for a sexy saxophone
Though far from perfect, Lo is an innovative little Instant Watch more than deserving of 80 minutes of your life. Those with Anya-sized holes in their hearts following the end of Buffy (I know; that hole wouldn’t be very big since actress Emma Caulfield is just slightly wider than a pixie stick but still) will find a kindred spirit in Travis Betz. In that case, yes, it’s a tad cute and self-aware for its own good, but you’ll know within the first ten minutes or so if Lo is your cup of juice. Drink up.