Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #302
Number of Views: One
Release date: October 21, 2014
Country of Origin: United States
Running time: 90 minutes
Directors: Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska
Producer: Michael Luisi
Screenplay: Nathan Brookes, Bobby Lee Darby
Characters: Dan Madigan
Special Effects: Harlow MacFarlane
Cinematography: Mahlon Todd Williams
Score: The Newton Brothers
Editing: Mark Stevens
Studio: WWE Studios
Distributor: Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Stars: Glenn Jacobs, Danielle Harris, Katharine Isabelle, Kaj-Erik Eriksen, Greyston Holt, Chelan Simmons, Michael Eklund, Lee Majdoub, Nancy Bell
Suggested Audio Candy
The Amity Affliction “Born To Die”
I may have mentioned recently that horror is enjoying something of a resurgence of late. Suddenly it has become profitable again and a new wave of talented young directors are flying the bloody flag with pride. While this warms the cockles of my heart, especially after the collective flat-line that was the nineties, we have still been left wanting a true slasher icon to hang our hats on. Thankfully that is all about to change with the imminent return of Marcus Miller and a transmogrified Baby Sister for The Orphan Killer: Bound X Blood but who else is currently stalking the halls? Victor Crowley and Chromeskull have both staked their claim but neither have enjoyed the kind of continued success of their forefathers. Elsewhere, there have been plenty of other upstarts attempting to hit their rhythm but so few of them have been particularly noteworthy. Back in 2006 Gregory Dark bought us Jacob Goodnight, a hulking juggernaut of a man with considerable presence, abundant meanness of spirit, and natural lasso skills to boot. See No Evil was hardly memorable enough to resonate over countless other slashers doing the rounds at the time but it certainly wasn’t dead in the water either. Sometimes a fresh pair of eyes can make all the difference when reinventing a formula so how about when you are afforded two pairs for your money?
The inimitable Twisted Twins, Jen and Sylvia Soska, started strongly with Dead Hookers in a Trunk and made their transition to the major leagues in 2012 when the awesome American Mary turned heads worldwide. Their unique take on body modification, also penned by the twins, swiftly became one of the most significant body horror films of the past twenty years and suddenly their next project was deemed worthy of great expectation. So it may have surprised many to learn of their decision to take on such a low-key property as See No Evil. While my brow became creased like the next man upon receiving the news, this also represented an opportunity to afford Jacob Goodnight’s transition from wannabe to gonnabe. Former wrestler Glenn “Kane” Jacobs had already proved once that he was no shrinking violet and the twins were now in a position where they could attract some of the industry’s finest to assist them in their endeavor. That is exactly what they did.
Headlining with established scream queens such as Danielle Harris and Katharine Isabelle can do you no harm going forward. Harris, who has appeared in both the Hatchet and Laid To Rest franchises, endeared herself to us as Jamie Lloyd in Halloween 4 back in 1988 and has steadily bolstered her reputation as fully fledged horror diva ever since. While there can be absolutely no question that she is one of our darlings and is both impossibly attractive and massively dependable, I still believe that she hasn’t yet received the service her skill set necessitates. Here she plays Amy, our birthday girl who unwittingly agrees to commence her annual celebrations in the same understaffed morgue that holds our recently expired mass murderer. Is she great? Of course she is, she’s Danielle fucking Harris; the lady could fart out a performance and make it convincing. However, when all is said and done, she is still a servant to the script. To help her cause she shares decent chemistry with the impressive Greg-Kinnear-alike Kaj-Erik Eriksen who plays her love interest Seth. Meanwhile another lookalike, this time Ethan Hawke’s long-lost brother Michael Eklund also acquits himself well as the wheelchair-bound Holden.
Then we have Isabelle and the Soskas had already laid the groundwork where she was concerned by revitalizing the career of one of our finest acquisitions by balancing American Mary on her more-than-capable shoulders. It would appear that she hasn’t yet gotten the crazy out of her system and this proves to be a decidedly good thing as she omits every bit of the sass and swagger that made grad student Mary such a bankable character. She plays best friend Tamara and positively brings it, transforming what could have been a forgettable fringe-member into someone far more memorable. Even when displaying histrionics one still senses a quiver in her quim and her resulting live-wire performance helps infinitely keeping us invested.
Alas, I previously mentioned the writing and it is here that See No Evil 2 doesn’t so much falter as fail to excel. The script from first time writers Nathan Brookes and Bobby Lee Darby is fine and by no means brings shame to the game but is content in providing us with the usual stereotypes and exchanges, rather than pushing the envelope any. In that respect, it feels like an affectionate hark back and, again, you won’t be finding any complaints from Keeper. However, by locating the carnage in tight clinical confines a la Rick Rosenthal’s glorious Halloween II and keeping personnel at a premium, it does appear something of a missed opportunity that they’re not a little more fleshed out. It’s not a critical blunder but does prevent this from reaching the heights scaled previously by the Twisted Twins and ultimately may keep their reiteration from ever reaching the masses.
Thankfully, all is far from lost. You don’t just forget how to make a movie and their prowess is evident through every single stylistically shot frame. Jacob cuts a formidable figure within their desolate corridors and fluorescent light pockets, while jars of formaldehyde crash to the floor in delicious slo-mo to feed our retinas the sugar rush they’re expecting. The result is a movie which looks the part, seduces our optical nerves consistently, and provides exactly what it says on the tin throughout. What will come as a shock to the more battle-hardened amongst us is that they show remarkable restraint when it comes to gushing grue although things pep up as we approach the final act and the SFX, almost entirely devoid of digital tampering, is exceptionally implemented particularly during one wonderfully grisly and well-staged dispatch and crowning moment.
So what does this tell us about the Twisted Twins going forward? Is world domination still on the cards? I would offer a resounding yes while asking you not to become carried away with unrealistic expectations when preparing to view See No Evil 2 for the first time. If you enjoyed your time with Jacob Goodnight in 2006 then there is no doubt that you’ll be in good company once again as his second outing consolidates his claim effortlessly. He’s a bad motherfucker for sure, Jacobs plays his part to perfection and can grunt and growl with the best of them. With all things considered, it’s a solid entry into the genre, but it would have been nice not to have to don the rose-tinted spectacles on this occasion. Whether or not See No Evil 3 emerges remains to be seen and, if it does, it may well be lacking the balls of the Soskas to drive it forward. However, I’d happily return for another helping.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10
Grue Factor: 3/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers: Of all the Soskas decisions it is this that surprised me most. Goodnight clearly isn’t the reprobate to be trifled with and can break a man with his bare hands as though communion bread. So why then is a large hunk of See No Evil 2 relatively bloodless? There’s plenty of destruction, mayhem and terror but, more often than not, it results in a one-sided wrestling bout rather than any discernible perforation. Having said that, by the final act, we’re introduced to the meat and potatoes and, one beautifully captured lingering neck slice later, we just want to plant a large sloppy kiss on those twisted lips.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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