The Film (4/5)
I tend to be a wordy writer, but in this instance I'm going to cut to the chase. Ryan Gosling's directorial debut Lost River is the best lucid Eurohorror film experience since 1994. Which is odd, because it is neither European, nor a horror film, but yet Gosling's approach to film seems to mirror some of that genre's great minds from the mid-period horrors of Lucio Fulci, the supernatural work of Dario Argento (with one sequence later in the film certainly showing inspiration from Argento's Inferno), the non-narrative sensibilities of a Jean Rollin, or Jess Franco, and of course Mario Bava.
The Bava influence, of course, can be felt in the film's vibrant color scheme, the sense of displaced unreality akin to the directors masterwork Lisa and the Devil, but most importantly in the casting of 77 year old actress Barbara Steele, who acted the lead in Bava's own directorial debut 1960's gothic horror classic Black Sunday. On first glance the film tends to look and feel like an urban drama, but the surface quickly begins to peel away, and the world Gosling creates becomes stranger, more deranged, and completely unsettling. From the moment Matt Smith's Bully arrives declaring the scrap in the town belong to him, and him alone, to Bones played by Iain De Caestecker walking across to a bridge, obscured by heat waves to the tune of a Phantasm-esque melody. This world feels just out of step with the reality we are familiar with.
A lot of the discussion regarding the film seems to fall squarely on it's style over substance mentality, and that is certainly true. Sometimes that works in it's favor, other times the film feels like it slows to crawl because of it. However, the lack of a cohesive narrative feels more of a deliberate decision by Gosling to heighten the tension in the situation, and give the feeling that we are not squarely in anything resembling reality, but a nightmare. Almost like a suburban spaghetti western lost in a gothic nightmare. If that last sentence sounds appealing to you, you might find a lot to like in Lost River. Do not go into the film expecting Gosling to ape the style of the Refn films (Drive, Only God Forgives) that have gotten him accolades in recent years. While it might appear as such on the surface, he has truly gone in his own distinct, and interesting direction with Lost River.
The film stars Christina Hendricks as Billy, a Mother of two that is simply trying to keep her childhood home from being demolished. In order to accomplish this she takes a job at a very Grand Guignol-esque club, where violence is sexualized, and the boss takes a shine to her. Her son Bones though not in love with the house, or their town of Lost River is trying to support his Mother and much younger brother the only way he can, by going into the foreclosed homes, and stealing the copper wiring from the walls, and selling them to the local junkyard. Unfortunately, for Bones this avenue becomes closed to him when the local criminal leader Bully (Matt Smith) declares all the scrap for himself, and anyone who crosses him will meet a violent end. As the film progresses Billy becomes more trapped in the inner workings of the club in an attempt to save her house before it can be demolished, and club, doing more horrifying things to raise the money to save the house. Noticing this Bones tries to save her, and also put an end to Bully’s reign on terror within the neighborhood.
The Warner Bros. Blu-ray of Lost River is presented in a 2:35:1 AVC encoded 1080p transfer that is nothing short of glorious. Colors are bright and bold, black levels are inky and deep, and fine detail is excellent.
The audio is presented in a DTS-HD 5.1 track in English. The track is also quite excellent with the dialogue, and film's score coming through quite nicely.
A UV code is included with the Blu-ray.
An excellent debut film from actor turned director Gosling. The film feels like a beautiful nightmare realized. The A/V on the disc is gorgeous, but the lack of extras is disappointing as I would have loved to hear more from Gosling on his creative process for the film. The film is highly recommended, of course, the Blu-ray is RECOMMENDED.