Lonely Ones, The (2006)
Written and directed by David Michael Quiroz, Jr.
As the years have progressed and I have become more and more disappointed with the overall quality of fare being offered at the Hollywood horror buffet, I have begun to state rather loudly that we must look to the underground, and by this I mean the indie scene, for our pleasures. (Now there's more than one indie scene – the "starring a big name actor at a fraction of his/her pay in a quirky offbeat roll" indie film that I almost don't consider indie anymore and the real indie scene with movies made from money scratched out of the dirt, which is where some of the best horror movies are coming from.)
I'm not always right about looking to the independent horror movie scene…they have lower budgets and can't afford the best effects or talents, so many times the product isn't so great. But usually the people involved put heart, soul, blood, love, and who knows what other body fluids into the making of these films. And it shows. And those are the good times, when you see that despite the limitations of their budget and circumstances, they turn out a damn fine product.
And a damn fine product is exactly what The Lonely Ones is. It starts off cliché ... so cliché that I literally groaned out loud ... in 1988 with a group of sorority girls (sorostitutes – a super fantabulous word this movie introduced me to) hanging out in a cabin and drinking. They decide to exchange some ghost stories, and one of the girls tells them about The Lonely Ones – a race of creatures who allegedly used to lure people away from civilization and devour them. Of course, several minutes later the Phi Beta Ki sisters are attacked, disappear, and are never seen or are heard from again.
Fast forward to present day and a group of nine friends who are off for a weekend of partying and general debauchery in the woods. Sounds like your typical Halloween/Friday the 13th 80's slasher flick, right? Well, the setup is that way, and there is a good bit of that. For instance, Cid is a big jerky jock who cheated on his girlfriend Rinoa and wants to use this weekend to make it up to her and win her back. And there are various other stereotypes. But they're not just stereotypes. Quiroz develops even the most throwaway characters somewhat and spends a great deal of time with the ones who are going to stick around.
In fact, those of you who are used to zipping right into the action will probably balk at the slow burn of the film, and in Hollywood they probably would have cut 20 minutes of the film's first 36. I'm not saying it couldn't have used a little trim here and there, but no serious pruning was required. I enjoyed the character development and the building tension, the likes of which you wouldn't find in most slasher flicks. The acting ranges from tolerable to downright good; surprisingly, on the whole the guys put on a better performance than the girls.
Once things get down to nasty business, it happens fantastically, like a roller coaster ... this slow, half-hour build like that initial climb when your car click, click, clicks up the track and then drops into the unknown. And from that moment on, Quiroz really jettisons the clichés (for the most part) and throws you some curve balls. There were quite a few things I didn't expect to happen at all. But I won't go into it any more than that because you should buy it and see for yourself. And join the film's MySpace page while you're at it!
The downside is this: The Lonely Ones was done on a low budget. There are a lot of things this had little to no affect on. The writing was pretty tight with no really laughable dialogue – except where intended of course. The acting was decent across the board with several actors delivering better than average performances. Ron Berg, who plays Luke, one of The Lonely Ones, was really great. I can't decide what I liked about him more: his acting or the fact that he reminded me of an old high school boyfriend. And Rinoa (Heather Rae) ... she's my girl. Man, I fucking love her. Even the effects are not that bad. But the sound and lighting kind of suck, which is really unfortunate. There were times when I wasn't entirely sure what was being said though I think I got the gist. And in nearly every scene that takes place outside, it's practically impossible to tell what's going on. Make sure you watch it with all the lights off; that's your best bet.
Oh, and one more thing I promised I would mention. I watched this film with my fiancé, who is ... well, he insists I refer to him as a "gaming enthusiast," and for those of you out there who also fall into this category, Quiroz is one of your own. Which I probably don't even need to tell you because if you're as much of one as he is, you've already picked up on the fact throughout the review, just as my fiancé did within minutes of the movie starting; but since I'm not, I didn't. For those of you not in the know, go ask a gamer.
So, the long and short of it is this: The synopsis sounds cliché as hell, I've seen bigger budgets on birthday videos, and the sound and lighting are not the greatest. But it works. Mostly because of the story. It really pulls you in. And if you're not rooting for at least one of the characters by the end, and I mean really rooting (I was sitting up and literally bouncing in my seat), you might possibly be made of stone. To use a comparison that will probably have some people cringing at my terminology – and an equal or greater number of people intrigued at the prospect – Quiroz's writing is sort of ... Whedon-esque. Anyone who knows me knows that's a huge compliment. And I can't really explain why it reminds me of Whedon aside from the title, which brings to mind the episode about the vampire wannabes (which the creatures in the films are not). You'll just have to watch it and see what I mean.
The Lonely Ones is not perfect, but its flaws are by far overshadowed by its strengths. I'm seriously looking forward to Quiroz's next project.
4 1/2 out of 5