Saturday, June 16, 2012

Netflix Treasures: "Lo"

I'm starting something new for my new blog. I've been wanting to do something like this for a long time but haven't been able to until now. Netflix Treasures and it's antithesis Netflix Nightmares are part of a new review series I've set up where I find rare gems within the bowels of the Netflix repository of movies and give them a review highlighting the good and bad and whether or not you should watch them.

First on my list of Netflix movies to review is a true treasure: "Lo."

The story behind how I discovered this gem is part of the reason why I like this film. You see, it was Halloween 2010 and a friend and I have a tradition of watching a horror movie to get into the spirit of the holiday. After scouring Netflix for what seemed like a decade we stumbled onto a film simply titled "Lo."

The summary detailed the story of a young man who must enter the bowels of hell to save the woman he loves and faces demons trying to get in his way. This movie sounded like a truly epic story full of scares so we clicked the play button and watched the film unfold before us.

It started out rather simple. A young man with a spell book creates a circle which he uses to enter Hell. The beginning really isn't that spectacular in any visual sense, but it definitely threw us off balance considering what the synopsis had promised. The young man, Justin (played by Ward Roberts), is cast into a room of darkness with only the candles circling him to provide light. Demonic sounds permeate his trip into the underworld and are quickly silenced as he sits in darkness. A demon approaches him and it is revealed that this demon is the titular Lo summoned by Justin through the spell book.

Immediately my friend and I were hooked upon seeing Lo. The makeup effects used to create Lo are really great. He is a pasty, broken, shell of a creature that crawls on its stomach due to a crippling injury to its legs as "punishment" for an unknown crime. However, when Lo begins to converse with Justing things get screwy.

To put it simply: Lo is hilariously evil.

Like Christopher Walken's portrayal of Gabriel in the Prophecy films Lo comes off as a silver tongued monster with a snarky wit. He hilariously calls Justin "dinner" in order to threaten him and between genuine acts of horror and evil will remark with witty put downs that illicit laughter rather than horror. Essentially, evil is hilarious, and Lo is definitely evil.

This revelation really twisted our perception of the movie as it quickly turns into something akin to Evil Dead 2, and this isn't a surprise to a more eagle eyed viewer who may have noticed "Lo" is in the horror/comedy category. Lo is hilarious as Justin attempts to order the demon into doing his bidding. Lo, while reluctant to take orders from a puny mortal, seems more interested in scaring Justin into leaving Hell before he becomes dinner for Lo or some other demon.

Lo's character immediately sucks you in with his truly devilish charm. And when his threats don't deter Justin we are then shown "flashbacks" into Justin's past to explain the events that drove him to enter Hell. Upon seeing how these flashbacks are shown my friend and I couldn't help but laugh at the cheese factor this movie has. Essentially, flashbacks are set up on a traditional stage complete with a happy and sad face (played by real people) hovering over the scene. The sets look cheap but aren't out of place in a play. This decision definitely threw us off kilter as everything seems so corny and cheap, but the story being told is very important as we watch how Justin met April, the woman he is determined to free from Hell.

It is here my friend and I turned to riffing on the film as the level of corniness simply begged for it. However, as time went on the story dragged us in, while still being hilariously corny.

I will go no further in explaining the plot simply because you yourself have to watch "Lo" in order to find out. I say this because regardless of what I said previously about how corny the movie can get at times with it's theater play flashbacks, corny musical numbers, and somewhat corny makeup effects (for the other demons, Lo is the exception) "Lo" is really a magnificent tale of love and sacrifice that is undoubtedly inspired by the story of Faust (which is mentioned in the story as it progresses).

However, the film does have it's flaws. The acting can be very cheesy, if not down right childish, but as you get used to the theme of the film it becomes endearing. As stated before, it can be corny at some points, and it's very clear this was made with a very small budget (which makes the makeup effects for Lo even more amazing) but regardless it tells a very engaging story with plenty of twists that will leave viewers with plenty of stuff to think about for days. If anything, it should leave you entertained with the few musical numbers sang by one of the demons and his cohorts.

While I can't say this movie is for everyone, if you enjoy an original story that takes an original approach to things then this movie is really up your alley. For some it will come off as a silly independent film with cheap effects and a cheesy script, for others it will be one of the best stories ever told on screen.

To this viewer, and his friend, this is undoubtedly a Netflix Treasure worth adding to your instant queue.

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