Urgh. I really wanted to like The Deaths of Ian Stone. With a character who can never die, so much could have been done with his ability to shift to different lifestyles – and for part of the film, director Dario Piana did just that remarkably well. But as the film grows, it breaks away from its original, more interesting topic to focus on a dorky plot about phantom demons called Harvesters that feed on human fear.
Ian Stone (played rather well by an emotional Mike Vogel) is attacked by these Harvesters one night after a hockey game, transforming his life into something more chaotic than a college student is used to. These Harvesters, wispy demons with growly faces who can transform into the people Stone knows, keep hunting Stone, but instead of killing him, Stone is transported to a new life, only to find that his memory is altered to forget the past life. After being confronted by a mysterious stranger (Michael Feast), Stone begins to remember what is happening to him, and how to survive – the power of love between him and his girlfriend Jenny (Christina Cole).
Yes, yes, what you’re thinking is true: Ian Stone does rip off of films like Groundhog Day or The Butterfly Effect a lot, but it’s not so bad. Stone doesn’t actually repeat days or anything like that; he actually lives a different life each time he dies, and it shows a lot about his character and adds more interest to the film. If Stone’s deaths were purely accidental each time, the film could have progressed nicely without having to resort to monsters. It could have been so much stronger if Stone had to keep avoiding death to stay with his beloved, adding a suspense and depth that no demon’s pursuance can. But I’m left with all of these “could have beens” instead of the reality of the film – a strong and personal first half with a dimwitted and strangely confused second half that explains little, attempts a lot, and ultimately fails at delivering its empathically-charged message.
Part of the reason has to do with the monsters, or Harvesters, or whatever they are. When they’re in demon form, they’re embarrasingly hokey; anyone ever hear of the Dementors from Harry Potter? They also feed on fear and apparate with fog. The CGI is just too noticeable and the Harvesters probably would have been more effective as heavily costumed actors; as they are, they remain unscary throughout the entirety of the film, and I found it hard to get into the terror of their presence because of their appearance. But even when they’re not in demon form, they are regular humans who sometimes appear to be dressed straight out of The Matrix with tight spandex suits.
When the really, really, really corny subject of love came into play, I lost all interest in Stone and his fight for survival. Honestly, with a character who can’t die, he doesn’t have to worry about much – he could just let the Harvesters keep killing him without any problems. It’s his own fault that he brings his girlfriend into the situation instead of ignoring her as if she didn’t exist so the Harvesters can’t find her. He draws attention to her, and yet the Harvesters neglect to kill her, which I found odd; they could hit Stone where it counts, but they decide to just torment him until he tells them how he killed one of their own Harvesters. In the end, does this all really matter? Stone has forgotten everything about his existence before his human form. He no longer needs fear to survive on as a Harvester, and he no longer possesses the knowledge of how to kill a Harvester. So why must they pursue him? The story neglects the fact that we really don’t know why Stone killed a Harvester in the first place, and to be truthful, at this point in the film, I could really care less about Stone’s motives.
And so Ian Stone loses the viewer in its attempts to wax philosophical on the powers of love against evil. Should it have stuck with its original template, the film could have been a great addition to the repetitive movies mentioned above, with a battle between Death as a form of natural power which Stone has to battle with endlessly, emphasizing the fact that immortality isn’t always a blessing. What we get, though, is some sort of superhero story of Stone battling Harvesters as a Fabio-haired Harvester (no, I’m not joking; somehow Stone grows long blonde hair after transformation for added intensity) with Buffy the Vampire Slayer – style fighting sequences that are low on scares and high on comedic genius – but I have a feeling that’s not what Piana and crew were looking for from the audience.
Ian Stone loses the viewer in its attempts to wax philosophical on the powers of love against evil.