I'll tell Haig that you said, "Hello."

The Fig Newton– yes, a little cookie filled with fig paste. Consider this:  I am not a big fan of figs.  I prefer Strawberries.  I freakin’ love strawberry  pie, strawberry tarts, strawberry donuts.  I’ll pretty much eat any baked goods filled with Strawberry-goodness.  Knowing that, one might reasonably think that I’d be positively gay for Strawberry Newtons.  Nope.  I can’t stand them.   They are a vile abomination, as are any newton that is not fig.  Why?  Because, the humble Fig Newton is everything it should be and cannot be improved.  It is one of humanity’s great achievements. It is a zen rock garden of flavor.

By perfection I don’t mean best, as in they are best food to eat always and every time.  I can assume that  you wouldn’t want to live on a diet of Fig Newtons.  You wouldn’t want everything to taste like a Fig Newton.  Fig Newtons are not a dietary staple.  Every once and a while they hit the spot in just the right way, leaving you feeling happy and satisfied.  I would like to introduce you to Lo, the Fig Newton of  movies about demons.

Justin (Ward Roberts) has a book that looks very like the Necronomicon Ex Mortis from The Evil Dead, which is always a good way to start off a movie.  Justin has painted a magic circle in the center of a black room of indeterminate size and surrounded it with candles.  He puts the finishing touches with some white paint on a snakelike symbol, adding some lovely horns for its head.  Consulting the book, he needs a knife, the idea being that he has to spill some blood in the center of his magic circle.  Looking around, he discovers that he has forgotten the knife.  He gets up to go get one, knocking over one of his candles as he goes.  He pauses for a moment to set the candle upright before disappearing briefly off-camera.   Returning with a knife, he knocks the candle over again as he steps back into his magic circle.  Justin is clearly not a Merlin.

Despite of being a neophyte when it comes to playing with the forces of darkness, Justin successfully summons a demon,  Lo (Jeremiah Birkett), who comes crawling menacingly out of the darkness.  Justin has summoned Lo to retrieve April (Sarah Lassez), Justin’s girlfriend, who has been abducted by a demon.  Lo is understandably reluctant to comply and tries to worm his way out of it.   Jeez (Devin Barry), another  demon drops by to support Lo in his effort to get Justin to give in and accept that April is forever lost to him.  From here we can go no further as we’d be in the spoiler zone.

As you most likely figured from the way I opened this review, I rather like Lo.  It’s true.  I think that Lo is the bee’s knees and I’m going to explain why: First of all, the writing is just simply great.  I’d never seen anything written by Travis Betz until now.  I’m impressed.  He created entertaining characters, gave them interesting dialogue and dropped them into a intriguing premise.   More importantly, the ending was satisfactory.  This might not sound like a big deal, but all too often don’t your find yourself watching end credits of a movie, reflecting on the conclusion with nothing more than the thought, “Yup.  That’s an ending.”   That happens to me with regularity.  Heck, look at Stephen King, who is arguably the most popular writer in the English language; how many of his stories end on a whimper? Too many.  Though Stephen King never has this problem, how many great plots are populated by boring interchangeable characters?  Too many.  Speaking of characters, some people might knock Lo saying that Justin is similar to Ash Williams from The Evil Dead.  Yeah, the actors look a bit alike too.  To that criticism I have this: So?

Betz also directed Lo, so we know that he respected the screen writer’s vision.  Lo  looks a lot like a stage production in that much of what you see is symbolic rather than literal.  Betz has invested so much in having the action taking place in a dark room of indeterminable size, that by shifting scenes to the vast expanses of Hell or filling the back story through realistic flashbacks, it would totally take us out of the moment. The interlude where Justin meets the damned was extremely dark and sad, though not devoid of very black humor, giving us a taste of how hellish it must be in Hell.   Big CGI “realistic” effects would have totally screwed this movie up.  Epic visuals don’t always convey epic ideas

“Wait!  This is a movie about demons!  Are there special effects?”  Yeah, there are some brilliant practical make-up effects.  The demon make-up and appliances are very convincing, especially Lo.  Tom Devlin did a great job.  Lo has nearly as much camera time as Justin.  We get a seriously long look at that make-up and it never falls flat.  It’s on par with anything I’ve seen in big money Hollywood movies and a good deal better than most of the CGI effects that everyone is so keen on churning out nowadays.

It does aid the make-up effects when you have good acting beneath the paint and appliances. Jeremiah Birkett and Devin Barry bring their respective demons to life.  Birkett is especially good, particularly when you consider the range of emotions he has to convey through the heavy make-up and appliances.  Ward Roberts is spot-on as the awkward, love struck Justin. Sarah Lassez is wonderful as the quirky and mysterious April.  I could totally see why Justin would risk so much to save her.

Though a small budget movie, there was nothing in Lo found lacking.  Editing, sound, music, costuming, set design and all the things that you really don’t notice unless they are done badly are all seamless here.

Lo is something that is rare, a horror film that you can watch on a date.  Genre-wise it could be called a Horror-Romantic-Comedy.   It has large doses of all three.  You could watch this with your “someone special” while cuddled up on the couch.  Is Lo a movie everyone is going to like?  Probably not.  As perfect as they are, not everyone likes Fig Newtons either.

Jeremiah Birkett
Ward Roberts
Sarah Lassez
Devin Barry

Travis Betz

Travis Betz

Five out of five Vincents

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