Judge David Johnson is ready for a romantic comedy starring Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake next.
Our reviews of See No Evil (1971) (published October 24th, 2003), See No Evil (2006) (Blu-ray) (published August 21st, 2009), and See No Evil: The Story Of The Moors Murders (published April 23rd, 2008) are also available.
Eight teens, one weekend, one serial killer.
The first offering from WWE Films introduces wrestling superstar Kane as Jacob Goodnight, a psychotic murderer with a thing for plucking out people's eyeballs. Can a gaggle of generic young people stand up to this towering hulk of death, or will he Tombstone these suckas into oblivion?
Facts of the Case
When a group of kids find themselves at the abandoned Blackwood Hotel for some community service, what they don't bargain on is a night of painful death. Accompanying the delinquents is the one-armed, battle-hardened cop who shot a homicidal maniac in the head years ago; what he's not banking on is facing down his past. Said maniac is Jacob Goodnight, a mute colossus who has made a home for himself in the Blackwood and preys upon hookers and transients—until the fresh meat shows up.
It's not long until the kids are menaced by Goodnight, who pops in and out of the serpentine maze of corridors and secret passages in the hotel, impaling his victims with a crazy hook and chain combo, reeling them in, and digging into their eye sockets.
See No Evil is sick and violent. I'll grant it that much. It's also empty, pretentious, and annoying to watch. Look, I'll yield this: WWE films isn't shy about infusing a pile of blood and gore into their first horror outing as a movie studio, but in this case the whole falls far beneath the sum of its parts.
After I finished this flick, I simply felt like I had killed 90 minutes or so. See No Evil is empty calories and while I wasn't pissed at life or anything, there was absolutely nothing about the film that stuck with me. The plot is minimalist horror tripe: attractive, idiot kids systematically get slaughtered by an unstoppable killing machine, until the shrewdest of the leftovers find a way to pull it out. You've seen it all before.
Of course, that's not necessarily a bad thing. This is the horror genre and the psycho-killing-teens formula has been punished mercilessly since its inception and to its credit, See No Evil loads up the violence for the textbook plays. I think what bugged me about the film though was the whole "Look at how awesome and stylish this movie is" vibe that permeated the affair. Lots of camera tricks, fake-out jump scenes and overwrought sound cues add to a hefty sense of over-stylization that betrays director Gregory Dark's pedigree as a music video director. When Dark settles down with the camera and just shoots the action, the film works a lot better; when things get cute is when I tune out.
Worse, the script hinges on a manufactured back story for Goodnight, and it's ridiculous. Not any more ridiculous than most slasher back stories, but the use of clichéd backwater Christian traumatizing is tedious and the flashback sequences are shot with way too much glitz.
But I'll curb the bitch session here. It's just that I really hate overly-slick look-what-I-can-do ADD filmmaking, and See No Evil wanders too far into that territory. If you consider yourself a gorehound, however, you may be surprised—and dare I say—delighted at the amount of violence that goes down in this movie. The gag of choice is the eyeball rip, and pretty much all the victims get the treatment, in full-on vivid detail. There are some other choice kills and I won't spoil them, but suffice it to say, Dark doesn't hold back on the blood.
Finally, how does Kane do in his first starring role? Well, he's huge, looks weird and doesn't say a single word throughout the runtime. So, great!
The movie looks and sounds very good. The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen is clean and detailed, despite the dark look of the film. The 5.1 audio mix uses the surrounds well, in what is a very jumpy movie. Extras include two audio commentaries, one with Gregory Dark and writer Dan Madigan and the other with Kane and producer Jed Blaugrand, a mediocre making-of featurette, storyboards, trailers and a brief Kane WWE promo.
I didn't dig this movie much, and I doubt hard-core fans of the genre will be lured in by the WWE Films moniker and the MTV shooting style. Scariest moment, by far? Kane confessing in the audio commentary that he was attracted to the Jacob Goodnight character because it was an "extension of himself." Yikes.
Guilty. Good night.
Give us your feedback!
Scales of Justice
• Writer and Director Commentary Track
Review content copyright © 2006 David Johnson; Site design and review layout copyright © 2015 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.