Meet Justin. Your typical no-lifer working a 9 to 4, who’s sitting in a pentagram to bring back his quirky girlfriend April from the depths of Hell. And he enlists the help of Lo but the demon trickster has other ideas in mind.
Here’s Travis Betz’s romantic comedy slapped with black satire, the hyperbole wackiness and demonic make-up reminiscent of our old Buffy the Vampire Slayer days. You’ll find it on Netflix right now, streaming instant play and on DVD (though I hear that the DVD’s pretty basic with only a menu consisting of two options: “Play” and “Scenes”).
I mainly watched it for the fact that it was all shot in a single room for a said two grand (and because I liked its promotional page) and because it’s intriguing to watch films that aspire towards the creative and unusual with its low production values. But that being said, be warned: with its space constraints, most of the plot is spurred by dialogue.
Now lengthy dialogue is inevitably a style that some prefer and others eschew. But the style isn’t the bane of such movies like Waking Life; it’s the content of that style. Unfortunately, the dialogue in Lo stumbles around and fails to be consistently interesting. True, depending on my mood, I’m more receptive to comedy but its attempts at humor were awkward and slapstick silly, maybe deliberately so. And hit-or-miss humor aside, I could’ve watched the movie without Justin’s freak-fest with his hand. And his self-justification about humans being able to make mistakes and just love? Constipating. I wasn’t buying it so when the demon Jeez was shaken by Justin’s admission of love, I just about rolled over and prayed the human be eaten, April be damned.
So probably because half my attention was on the movie, I actually jumped a little at the ending. Then I paused it and LOL-ed because yes, for those of you who saw the ending 18 miles away, I was surprised. It’s this discrepancy of random dance numbers, rambling dialogue and awkward theatrics in the first chunk of the story and the last ten minutes that makes it all the more surprising. But was it intentional? Well, it wouldn’t matter. The main question is, did it work? You’ll find that many people thought it did.
But yes, it could’ve been shorter. It also could have been better. I feel that the script could’ve churned through a few more drafts, a change of scenes even, and the dialogue could’ve been tightened. In this sense, Betz didn’t transcend his production limitations, he and his story barely broke the surface.
What is perhaps my biggest complaint is that we have to take for granted that the girl is lovably weird to the guy even if she isn’t necessarily endearing to us. We have to assume that he loves her and vice versa despite the fact that they’re awkward from the time they first meet to the Christmas scene where they’re exchanging gifts. There’s less realistic emotion with its emphasis on shouting and gesticulation which works more for a theatre production than in a movie where we have something called “close-ups.” But again, as someone’s pointed out, Justin and Lo were reminiscing a past which needn’t be realistic. The actors obviously had it in them though because the last scene was probably the most realistic and touching. Even if Justin’s love tirade against the demons and the staged flash-backs are kind of a sad tribute to a cardboard idea of love, in the end, I think we do catch a glimpse of real love.
7 out of 10 stars