See No Evil 2 (2014) Review

seenoevil2

Back in 2006, former adult film-maker Gregory Dark was hired to make “See No Evil”, a WWE Studios release starring Glenn “Kane” Jacobs as the lead villain, Jacob Goodnight. That film was okay, and it’s DVD sales made it one of the more successful WWE Films projects for a while, but it was a very generic and run of the mill slasher film that went down the typical horror avenues. It was passable horror fare, but it wasn’t special in any way. I was surprised then, when WWE Studios decided to green-light a sequel, again starring their resident “big red machine”, Glenn “Kane” Jacobs as the returning murderous psychopath. I was relieved though, when news was released that Jen and Sylvia Soska, twin-director-duo responsible for horror flicks like Dead Hooker in the Trunk and the original and enjoyable American Mary, were to direct. This news, along with the casting of horror movie mainstays Danielle Harris (Hatchet 2 & 3) and Katharine Isabelle (Ginger Snaps, American Mary) was enough to intrigue me into seeing the film once it was released. Written by Nathan Brookes and Bobby Lee Darby, this WWE Studios funded title is certainly a big improvement on the mediocre-at-best original.

The film takes place immediately after the events of the first movie, where demented killer Jacob Goodnight (Glenn Jacobs) hacked and slashed his way through a group of young delinquents in an abandoned house. The victims are being brought into a city morgue, and among them is Goodnight himself, dead as a doornail, or so he’d have you believe. Working the graveyard shift in the morgue are Amy (Danielle Harris), Seth (Kaj-Erik Erikson) and Holden (Michael Eklund), awaiting a busy night after discovering that the victims of the terrible events would be delivered to their workplace. It’s Amy’s birthday, and when she cancels plans to go out with her friends to celebrate in order to help her over-worked colleagues, her friends decide to bring the party to her. Tamara (Isabelle) Kayla (Chelan Simmons), Carter (Lee Majdoub) and Amy’s brother Will (Greyson Holt) hit the morgue with beer and balloons to wish their friend a happy birthday. When the drunken and promiscuous Tamara decides to wander the halls of the morgue, finding the body of Goodnight, and having sex with her boyfriend, Carter, beside the body, things begin to fall apart for the care-free group of men and women. Whilst in the midst of passion, Tamara notices that the body is no longer beside her, and we are then shown a living, breathing and seething Jacob Goodnight, and he is ready to continue his murderous ways.

The storyline is as basic as they come, a medical facility/morgue with a killer on the loose and a group of potential victims attempting to escape, but the simplicity does many favours to the film in my view, there is no reason that the story needed to be deeper than it is, and it makes it easy to have fun with the proceedings. The Soska Sisters do a great job, the look of the film is sharp and slick, and the shots of long hallways, and dark rooms, provides a location that while on the surface is fairly normal, feels like catacombs, claustrophobic and maze-like. Danielle Harris is very good here, strong willed and brave yet likeable, she provides a much more enjoyable female protagonist than is often seen in horror films, especially in the slasher sub-genre. Continuing The Soska’s run of strong female leads after the top-notch American Mary, Harris’s Amy should be a new blueprint for female slasher characters. A natural leader and survivor, she brings plenty to the table, and carries much of the film on her shoulders. Alongside her is Erikson, as Seth, Amy’s co-worker who is still trying to buck up the courage to ask her out. He’s smart, loyal and amiable and often leans on Amy for reassurance or advice, another trait that I enjoyed, showing a willingness for a male to not be taking the lead so obviously, and being the alpha-male type that we are used to seeing.

The writing is fine, and the casting quality is a vast improvement on the first film. Harris, Erikson, Isabelle and Eklund in particular are very good, and their delivery of the script is nice. It isn’t a film that does anything massively different to other slasher flicks, but it’s the characters and the way the film looks that sets it apart for me. I thought it looked great, and the focusing shots on items and dripping blood, close-up’s that are as artistic as they are horrific, provide something different. The cinematography from Mahlon Todd Williams (Painkiller Jane) is a strong point, and one that, along with the other positive aspects of the film, make this the best WWE Studios outing yet, in my opinion.

While some might turn their nose up at the concept and the not-so-original idea of a group of young protagonists fleeing from a single madman, I enjoyed it. I did find that some of the decisions that our screaming sufferers made were frustratingly wrong, but they were done in such a knowing way by the filmmakers that it wasn’t as maddening as I’ve found it to be in other slasher movies. When the characters split up while running from Goodnight, they follow it with dialogue that literally states what a bad idea splitting up is. Now, how can you really pick on that when it is so aware of itself? Jacobs, as Goodnight, is an intimidating presence that looks like he is capable of lifting these people by their throats and flinging them across the room. Those familiar with Jacob’s work in professional wresting as “Kane” will know that he is a genuinely strong guy, and a big guy too, and so it makes it even more believable that he would be able to drag a flailing victim down a hallway by their leg. Jacobs doesn’t have much dialogue, but the little bit of backstory that they gave his character was enjoyable and something I appreciated.

I had fun here, and I thought the cast were an enjoyable group who did a good job in their roles. Seeing a pro-wrestler in a movie can have a very mixed outcome (see Suburban Commando) but here, Glenn Jacobs delivers as the giant killer with a thirst for snapping spines and cracking heads. Harris shone as Amy, and it further cements The Soska Sisters as horror directors to keep an eye on. I’m interested to see what they do next.

See No Evil 2 is available on DVD, from Lionsgate, now.

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