Let’s start with the fact that I never saw the original See No Evil but it seems neither did anyone else. It’s made by WWE Studios the film offshoot of the American wrestling federation (or whatever they are called) and looking at their roster it seems they often make sequels to their own films that no one watched the first time round. 12 Rounds, The Marine and now this… Eight years a after the original about a serial killer played by a wrestler (Kane, no surname seemingly) who like to poke people eyes out comes See No Evil 2: See Less Evil.
Things start pretty well and that’s because of one thing: it’s directed by Jen and Sylvia Soska. They made American Mary, which I didn’t like at all but I know I’m in the minority on that one. What that showed was that the girls knew how to make a film look good and they had a distinctive voice. At the end of the opening credits here, where we’ve seen disconcerting details of the morgue where See No Evil 2 is set we see the twins dead on metal slabs with their “directed by” credit floating above them. It’s a unique, subversive start to a film and suggests that we are going to be treated to something special. As it turns out it’s about the only good thing in the movie, by quite a long way.
There’s the tiny semblance of a plot if you’re interested. Scream queen of the moment Daneille Harris plays a morgue doctor who decides to skip her own birthday party to stay working late because there are a whole heap of stiffs arriving from the first film that need embalming and having those little labels tied to her toes. Unfortunately, one of those bodies is the killer Jacob Goodnight, who sounds more like a James Bond girl than a mass murderer. Foolishly, the paramedics bringing him over have managed to revive him with the old heart starter despite him having a giant spike rammed through his brain. Fortunately for him, Harris’ friends have decided to throw her birthday party at the morgue so he has lots of people to kill. Of course once they all show up Harris doesn’t do the slightest bit of work so she would have been better off meeting her mates down the pub in the first place.
This collection of idiots is lead by Harris’ brother, a whiny control freak who tries to give his sister some depth by giving her some back story – “why are you working here when you could be one of the greatest surgeons the world has ever known?” I’m paraphrasing but you get the idea, subtle character development this is not. At least they tried I suppose.
The main other party goer is the Soska sisters’ leading lady from American Mary, Katharine Isabelle, and doesn’t she make a song and dance about it. She “acts” in the broadest sense of the word: a good time girl obsessed with serial killers, it’s a knowing, grating performance, all kooky eyes and over the top reaction shots only relieved by a (spoiler… oh who cares) by a fairly good throat cut. Even then she over eggs it. Isabelle seems to be in a different film from the rest of the cast – a over the top comedy performance in a film about a killer in a morgue. Nicely misjudged there.
At least Isabelle can act. This Kane chap playing Jacob Goodnight can’t even deliver a line of dialogue. When he calls someone “a dirty whore!” (not sure why) it’s like he has been up all night trying to learn those three words. In fact even walking seems to be beyond Kane’s abilities whilst the camera is rolling. He is so stiff and uncomfortable it must have been a relief for the Soska’s when they didn’t have to shoot the poor lump. Perhaps this is why we mostly cut away from death scenes throughout the film (a grave sin in slasher movies in my books), Kane couldn’t project the required emotion whilst killing the dirty whores or slightly unclean strippers or whatever he thinks of them.
It doesn’t help that Jacob Goodnight is a relentlessly dull monster. Jason Vorhees had his hockey mask, Leatherface his chainsaw and The Shape his pure, unrelenting evil but what has Goodnight got apart from a silly name? Mommy issues? They’ve all got mommy issues in one way or another. Even Michael Myers got them retro fitted in the Rob Zombie remake. Other than that I don’t know what distinguishes Goodnight from any other third rate murderer. He has a couple of wrestling moves I suppose.
Talking of his problems with his mother, we are shown some flashbacks to the first film (I presume) where we find out that his mum was a religious fanatic who bullied her boy until he accidentally killed her with a conveniently placed rusty nail through the eye. Okay, I get that we have some flashbacks of this so we can fill in the gaps of logic behind Goodnight’s crazy ways. It’s a cheap way of extending the films running time, showing flashbacks to last movie. And it’s not as bad as The Hills Have Eyes 2 where the dog has a flashback to the first film and it lasts about half an hour because they’d run out of money to finish the sequel. But what I don’t understand is why, when Goodnight is strangling a victim we have more flashbacks to the first film when he was strangling someone else. What are we meant to think now? Is it meant to suggest that Goodnight is going “oh yes! Die you unclean wench… Oh hang on… This reminds me of that other time I strangled someone to death. How interesting…” This happens a lot and is incredibly pointless and annoying.
Another thing that happens a lot is seeing characters try to escape from Goodnight through doors that are locked. They have a bunch of keys and spend a not inconsiderable amount of time trying to open the door, just finding the right key at the last second. This happens three times and isn’t thrilling any of the times. In fact that’s the main problem with See No Evil 2. It’s just not thrilling or scary or exciting or anything really. The character work in the first act is too dull so you just want the killing to start. Then when it does it’s repetitive, uninventive and there’s little forward momentum. When a certain character dies we have a death scene as the two would-be lovers say goodbye. That’s fine but then having another long scene of the surviving character mourning just seems like self indulgence and the film grinds to a halt. Also in the climactic showdown, if you can call it that as we barely build up to it, a shelf of glass jars is knocked over and we are treated to a slow motion lovingly shot image of them exploding on the floor. Fine, all very pretty, but again the action has ground to full stop.
I said before that the Soska’s could make a film look good and that’s almost true here, but there are so few interesting sets. It mostly involves victims falling over whole being chased down the same metallic corridors again and again. Also when the lights go out things get increasingly murky and it gets harder to see what is actually going on. Also some of the framing seems to off. Goodnight kills one chap whilst they both stand behind a pillar so we can’t see what is going on clearly. It looks like a bad take but maybe the only one available in the edit.
And maybe that’s the problem, I can only assume that See No Evil 2 was a rush job with little time to get things right. Or maybe the Soska twins had little control over the finished product. Perhaps they were only allowed final cut if they beat a bunch of big burly men in some kind of wrestling vs creative freedom smack down. And they must have lost, because this movie is terrible.