Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy

The Deaths of Ian Stone | Lake Dead

By Steve Anderson
May 1st, 2008

the deaths of Ian StoneThe Deaths of Ian Stone
Directed by Dario Piana
Written by Brendan Hood
Starring Mike Vogel, Jaime Murray, Christina Cole, Michael Feast
Produced by Stan Winston, Brian Gilbert, Ralph Camp
87 mins

So I confess to some doubt before I put in "The Deaths of Ian Stone". I saw the trailers, and the synopsis, and it struck me as an experiment. While any experiment has incredible potential to be a rare and unique gem, it also has incredible potential to be a train wreck of devastating proportions.

When you see the plot, you'll see why. Check this out: some guy named Ian Stone (hence the title) runs into some strange something-or-other that forces him into the path of an oncoming train. Okay, big punch right away, right? But check out the rest--instead of dying, as most people tend to do when getting hit with a train, Ian Stone finds himself in a new life that seems oddly familiar. Until the strange something-or-other comes back, and Ian Stone finds himself back on the other end of the dying stick. It soon becomes clear that Ian will keep right on dying...until he can find out why.

And I found myself growing steadily more convinced that this was a really, really good move. Indeed, "The Deaths of Ian Stone" is an absolutely unique experience that I, despite decades of horror movies, cannot name a parallel for. Okay, granted, the whole "love triumphs over fear" motif they'll be using throughout is so stale it could knock an intruder unconscious but still. This is definitely unlike anything I can name.

It's got plenty of chases, action, killings, fistfights and all those things that put a real spark on horror filmmaking. I can't tell you a whole lot more without spoilering like no tomorrow, but suffice it to say that I found everything to be done precisely well.

Oh, sure, I wish they'd gone back to the days when each title had its own DVD menu, and I wish they'd been able to infuse some of that sweet originality that the film itself had into that menu, but this is a problem so slight it barely matters. Tack that menu item onto my wish list, because it will not, read, NOT, affect your enjoyment of this film one IOTA.

The ending manages to not only tie up all the loose ends but also leave the potential of a sequel available in a fashion that doesn't insult the viewer's intelligence.

The special features are the only real low point for this title, having only Miss Horrorfest contest webisodes and English and Spanish subtitles. Sad for a movie this good, but still.

All in all, wow. Granted, "The Deaths of Ian Stone" may not be the same frenetic fright-fest as the series' absolute high-water mark, 2007's "Gravedancers", but there's no doubt at all that this one is a fantastic joy to watch, completely without parallel in the market, and an absolute, unquestionably must-see title.

Lake DeadLake Dead
Directed by George Bessudo
Written by Daniel P. Coughlin
Starring Alex Quinn, Tara Gerard, Kelsey Crane, Kelsey Wedeen
Produced by Mike Karkeh, Todd Chamberlain
91 mins

Well, the Broken Clock Theory does have its obverse--while it may be right twice a day, it's still wrong plenty of others, and "Lake Dead" is going to be one of those.

You would think that the upshot to the After Dark Horrorfest is that even the worst movie in the rotation is still pretty good, but sadly, for the first time, that's just plain old not the case. "Lake Dead" is garbage. Utter garbage. How this got into a block of otherwise excellent movies is beyond me.

But, I guess, someone's got to be the dog, so let's sail right into this barker. Basically, sisters of a really horrible family managed to inherit a motel out in the middle of nowhere, and they need to figure out what to do with it. Meanwhile, the sisters stumble across a family of redneck psychopaths in the midst of a killing spree, and put themselves unwittingly on the block. Plus, they get to learn just how horrible their family truly is.

Which has been done unto death several times, and I guess "Lake Dead" is just trying to be the "The Hamiltons" of the 2007 Horrorfest, but man. One, I can't believe Texas Chainsaw Knockoffs still exist, and two, I REALLY can't believe that one of them got into the After Dark Horrorfest! That's wrong for so many reasons that just picking one is tough to do.

And this is really all "Lake Dead" is, folks, just another Texas Chainsaw Knockoff packed with psychopathic backwoods types who like killing and raping and suchlike. That filmmakers actually think this kind of gratuitous violence passes for scary is perhaps the greatest blow of all.

Worse yet, "Lake Dead" suffers minus points right off for its use of thoroughly chee-zee CG blood effects. Used to be they'd have to do something semi-realistic with blood makeup and squibs and they can just drop in a graphic of a head shot and call it a day. I can't say I approve of that, but it by itself is a minor issue. Especially when compared against everything else.

The ending borders on the downright reprehensible, frankly, because rape is bad enough, but incestual rape is even worse.

The special features include audio and video options, English closed captions, Miss Horrorfest Contest webisodes and both English and Spanish subtitles.

All in all, I'm thoroughly revolted by "Lake Dead" and am having a really hard time wrapping my head around the existance of this miserable little thing. An easy contender for worst of the Horrorfest yet, "Lake Dead" makes "The Hamiltons" look like "Night of the Living Dead."

Want to receive an expanded version of Reel Advice as an E-Newsletter?? Email to with "The Advisor" in the subject line.  Steve Andersen, much to his own chagrin, is a five-plus year veteran of the direct to video market. He has spent an alarming amount of time in video stores and seeks to provide the public with advance information on all the video releases that they may never have heard of...whether they want to hear of them or not. Steve appears in one way or another weekly, biweekly, or monthly on such fine entertainment-related ezines as Film Threat, Dream Forge, Reel Horror, Acid Logic, Chaotic Culture Magazine, Malicious Bitch webzine, and many others. Readers, agents, or editors can email Steve at

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