Sunday, June 27, 2010

How Lo Can You Go

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.

Quick Plot:
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.

High Points
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
Low Points
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
Lessons Learned
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

Band-Aids were made for a reason

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.


  1. I have sat on this one for a while. I found it sometime after seeing INK and was thinking it may have some of the same charm and impressive skill as that film, but I had heard some mediocre things about it, keeping me from watching it sooner. I'll trust your good judgment and check it out sooner rather than not at all.

  2. Yeah, I've heard about this one(I think NOTLP reviewed it), so will eventually get around to it. But then you say thing like Sweet and Cute and I think, maybe it's not for me. :)
    Sooner or later I'll check it out.

  3. Matt: I've still been saving Ink following your great review for a time when I could fully give it my attention. Lo isn't perfect, but its heart is definitely in the right place.

    Kangas: NotLP totally did review it a few weeks back, which is where I first heard about it. It's definitely not for everybody, but it gives its all and has a lot of good going for it. Again, you'll know almost immediately where you stand. Give it a try.

  4. This is a fun little flick and the effects are damn good time matched with hard liquour

  5. Isn't everything a damn good time matched with hard liquor? Well, maybe not beer or onions, but almost everything else.

  6. I heard mixed but mostly good things about this! Will look into finding a copy. Thanks for breaking it down for us.

  7. I agree on all points you made!

    Joss Whedon feel: check!
    Dinner scene: check!

    Though I must admit I only got through half of the film and am not in too much of a hurry to finish, which is very unlike me.

    But I am curious if it has an interesting twist right around the corner.

    It wasn't at all what I was expecting in tone, but, I admit it was refreshing.

  8. Funny Ashlee, I totally understand your thoughts! The film doesn't necessarily drive you to end it, but I do think it's worth finishing for the twist. You might kind of sense SOMETHING about it, but the exact details are rather poignant and do make you almost want to revisit the whole film. Still not a great film, but quirky and original and solid enough to make me keep an eye on the director.

  9. Intriguing. I, for one, like quirky, so this sounds like just the kind of film I need to see. Great review.