“Lo” proves that when you have a creative vision and a talented cast, a low-budget production doesn’t necessarily mean a low-quality production.
As much as I love all things horror, the truth is I’m a total sap. I can handle any crisis life throws at me, but set my eyes on a book or a movie and I turn into a weeping mess. I’ve woken my partner with racking sobs as a I try to finish the latest novel on my Kindle. My son teases me as I cry through films (I’m not talking tear jerkers; I’ve been known to devolve to a sobbing wreck during an action film).
Okay, sometimes it’s not even the films; sometimes it’s just the trailers before the movie even starts. I like to think I’m a romantic and that I invest in what I watch and read…my girlfriend just thinks I’m a big marshmallow.
Like I said though, I love horror, so when I can find a horror movie that also had a big heart, I chalk that up as a win.
Anyone who watches low-budget films knows it can be a mixed bag. While you get rare moments of genius, for the most part you find a lot of duds. Lo is one of those rare moments of genius from writer/director Travis Betz.
As the movie opens, we see Justin (Ward Roberts) setting up a pentagram. He then proceeds to call forth the demon Lo (Jeremiah Birkett) to do his bidding. Justin is in love…well, he was in love. His girlfriend April (Sarah Lassez) was taken during the night by the demon Jeez (Devin Berry). In his quest to find her, he must match wits with both Lo and Jeez and try to determine what is true and what is fake as he relives he and April’s short relationship, finding out April may have been more than she appeared.
Everything about Lo is perfect. I happened upon this gem a few years ago when it was streaming on Netflix, and it is a movie that has stuck with me ever since. The setting, the lighting, the sound effects, the cast — it’s all just spot on.
The movie confines the characters to a single room. Justin is trapped in his pentagram where he is safe, and the demons interact with Justin outside of that small circle. It’s a brilliant concept. The effect is both claustrophobic, yet opens a whole new world to horror fans. The simple setting very much makes the movie feel like a play. This is intentional and even played upon as Justin and Lo watch scenes from Justin and April’s meeting and whirlwind romance play out on an imaginary stage, complete with interactive drama masks.
The lighting is brilliantly managed as we often only see Justin and Lo by the lights of the candles on the pentagram or a single light from above. It adds to the atmosphere and the claustrophobia of the set.
For a low budget movie, the effects are very well done and cleverly accomplished considering the limited budget. The demon makeup is effective but not limiting as the actors are able to bring pieces of themselves into their performances. This is important in a movie like this where the set is limited.
Because there’s not a lot to look at visually and because the lighting of the films forces us to focus on the actors, this is a very performance driven piece. And that is where Lo really strikes home — its leads are nearly perfectly cast.
Ward Roberts (Joshua) is spot on with his portrayal of Justin, having to play a plethora of emotions and even channel his inner Bruce Campbell. Sarah Lassez is quirky and charming as April, yet also finds the touching moments when the script calls for it. Devin Barry is absolutely hilarious as the demon Jeez, especially when he explains a crucial plot point to Justin in song (as a lounge singer complete with his backup band, Jeez and the Jeezettes).
But the ultimate performance is Jeremiah Birkett’s brilliance as the titular character. Lo is scary. Lo is powerful. Lo shows emotion and vulnerability. But Lo is also hilarious, and the chemistry on display between Birkett and Roberts is one of the most compelling parts of an extremely well done film that deserves to be seen by a much broader audience.
Lo has everything — drama, horror, comedy, singing, and most importantly, heart. Track down this movie wherever you can (there is a copy currently streaming on YouTube). You’ll be glad you did.