Every now and again, you may encounter a genre-defying movie that surpasses your wildest expectations but remains extremely hard to adequately describe. I personally consider Nick Chakwin and David Guglielmo‘s thrilling mashup of Neo-Noir and Southern Gothic storytelling, No Way to Live, as one of these remarkable films.
No Way to Live stars Tom Williamson as Monty, a vacuum cleaner salesman who happens upon the secluded home of the beautiful and tormented Nora Thompson, stunningly played by Freya Tingley. Apparently smitten with the girl, Monty agrees to help her escape from her abusive household. Along the way, both characters begin to suspect that the situation isn’t exactly what it seems as they’re forced to deal with the depravities of the 1950s deep south.
While the film is definitely not a traditional horror movie, there are several moments of brutal and deeply disturbing imagery that will haunt you long after the credits have stopped rolling. The perverse nature of the story is an obvious homage to classic Film Noir, with so many twists and turns that you’ll end up suspicious of almost every single character, but the movie offers us much more than just shock value.
At the end of the day, No Way to Live is a character study focusing on the effects of human perversion, and how easily people can be fooled by friendly exteriors. The carefully crafted mystery and thrills may constantly keep us on the edge of our seats, but they’re far from the main human attraction.
The film owes a large part of its success to the lead actors’ believable performances. Tingley was especially mesmerizing as Nora, in one of the most memorable roles I’ve seen all year. I can’t exactly discuss all the subtle character nuances present here without completely spoiling the experience, but suffice to say that the acting really made this film. Larry Fessenden also pops up in a minor role, which is always a great time for horror nuts.
However, the story could have benefited from a little more room to breathe, as many important events are simply glossed over during the course of the first half of the film. The script seems to be in a hurry to get to the twists, which ends up making them less impactful when they seem to happen all at once. The ending, while appropriately brutal, could also have used some more polish.
Nevertheless, No Way to Live is a beautifully shot film, made even more interesting by a peculiar script and phenomenal performances. The old-fashioned setup might not be to everyone’s taste, but it provides viewers with one hell of an exciting if somewhat uncomfortable ride through a highly stylized vision of 1950s America. They sure as hell don’t make ’em like this anymore.
No Way To Live is available now on Blu-Ray and VOD!