Groundhog Day, of course, followed an everyman as he relived a comically different version of the title day after day. Ian Stone approaches the frustrations of an all-American guy being stuck in a déjà vu time warp, as well, except with a lot more blood. Everyday, twenty-something Ian Stone (Mike Vogel) wakes up living a different life, and before the end of the day, meets a horrific death.
Ian retains memories of the lives he's lost, however, and has gathered clues that help explain his predicament. First, his former girlfriend (Christina Cole) appears in every life in a different form (as neighbor, co-worker, etc.) and always ties in to his demises. Second, Ian encounters a dark-cloaked character whose head spins, twists, and vibrates. This fellow isn't human, but a Harvester, an alien creature who feeds on human fear. There are a bunch of these, and they're all determined to murder Ian on a daily basis.
What do the Harvesters want with Ian? What does Ian's girlfriend have to do with all of this? And who the hell is the old man who keeps running into Ian and giving him information about the creatures that are hell-bent on his destruction? He better find out fast, because until Ian Stone can figure out why he's dying so much, the bloodshed will surely continue.
Alas, when Ian finds the answers, they're a bit too simple. Brendan Hood's (who also wrote Wes Craven's They) screenplay often relies on exposition, which is frustrating because he's clearly creative enough to use kinetic action instead of boring dialogue for explanation. Upon revealing these answers, Ian Stone turns from horror mystery to a paranormal X Files-esque flick that doesn't quite know how to transition from one genre to the next, and eventually resembles an adult video game.
Still, director Dario Piana (who has helmed mostly commercials and foreign TV series) keeps the film moving at a clean, tightly-wound pace. Stan Winston's (Wrong Turn) studio team creates gleefully inventive prosthetics and special effects, but Piana never relies on props to propel to action. Ian Stone maintains a violent and energetic spirit, seldom making for a dull moment.
Ian Stone's greatest asset is the actor behind Ian Stone -- Mike Vogel. Ever since The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Vogel has had a knack for acting in horror movies (he's appearing in several next year, including Cloverfield and Open Graves). His talents surpass the genre; he's one of the more underrated actors in his age range. He isn't a showoff like Chris Evans and doesn't overact like Seann William Scott; he brings a gentle, everyman charisma to his performances. He delivers Ian Stone with the perfect blend of confusion, desperation, and intensity. Vogel carries the film with strength and conviction, and proves himself more than worthy of future leading man roles.
Between Vogel's allure and Stan Winston's phenomenal production values, The Deaths of Ian Stone could have stood alone without the film festival gimmick. It's not a perfect film by any means, but it is sheer entertainment. And that's enough to make this a must-see for horror and science fiction fans alike.
Looks like a bad way to go.
Run time: 87 mins
In Theaters: Friday 4th January 2008
Distributed by: After Dark Films
Production compaines: Odyssey Entertainment, Isle of Man Film Commission, Stan Winston Productions, SWFX
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 57%
Fresh: 4 Rotten: 3
IMDB: 5.6 / 10
Director: Dario Piana
Producer: Brian J. Gilbert, Ralph Kamp, Stan Winston
Screenwriter: Brendan Hood
Also starring: Stan Winston
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