June 7, 2006

Movie Review: See No Evil

If you are a fan of the WWE, it has been near impossible to miss the hype machine that was built up for this movie. Its presence on WWE programming was inescapable, the closer the release day came, the more time was devoted to it. There were clips of the film, interviews with the director and cast, clips of other WWE performers reacting to the film, there was even the integration of the release date into an angle on the show. The hype didn't end with the film's release, it has continued on for the past couple of weeks. Whether or not it has helped the box office receipts, I do not know, but while it isn't tearing up the charts, it is performing well, even better than expected.

Now, I am sure you are all wondering what World Wrestling Entertainment has to do with this movie. There are probably an equal number that are completely aware of the connection. The reason I bring it up is because at the screening I went to let out some puzzled "Huh?"'s as the WWE logo appeared on the screen. I must admit, it was a much classier presence than I expected, pulling out through gears to reveal the logo accompanied by an orchestra tuning up. Back to those unaware, this is the debut release of Vince McMahon's latest experiment, WWE Film's. That's right, Vince is once again trying to expand his empire, and I think it could work. The plan is to produce low budget films based on its characters. This film stars Kane, aka The Big Red Machine, aka Glen Jacobs (his real name). What better way to showcase this mountain of a man than to present him as the killer in a horror film?

I did not have any expectations going in, all I hoped for was an entertaining ride. It does have the R rating going for it, which is always a plus in this day and age of PG-13 sanitized horror. What I got was a fun popcorn chomping time. There was nothing terribly original about this movie, but it had style. It stands apart from the other low budget horror flicks I have seen, it wasn't afraid to have its killer front and center, he wasn't sneaking around the shadows or waiting until the final act to be revealed. The primary focus here was to entertain, not reinvent the genre and stand the audience on its ear. I let the uninformed part of my brain take control as I enjoyed the heck out of this movie.

The movie opens with a pair of police officers responding to strange noises emanating from a house. The two enter the home completely unprepared for what they find. A young woman crying for help, her eye sockets empty. The police are then attacked from the shadows a giant of a man wielding an ax, one of the officers got a shot off before the attack ends, as quickly as it began. This takes us to the credits and into the future.

It is a few months later, and we are introduced to a gaggle of delinquents looking to shave time off of their sentences by taking part in a new work release program. They are accompanied by two police officers, including one from the pre-credit attack, to a large and foreboding burned husk of a hotel. They are greeted by an elderly woman who sets the ground rules, no one on the top floors (too much fire damage), stay in the specified rooms at night, and do a great job. The bunch of misfits are just out for a good time.

They go about doing as little work as they can for the day, while avoiding their chaperons. As soon as night falls, they set about for other activities. A few head upstairs to the burned out floors to have themselves a party, while another pair decide to seek out a hidden safe said to contain millions, and finally a couple decide to just stay in. What they don't know is that they are not alone in the hotel.

The upper floors are the home of the psychotic killer Jacob Goodnight, the mountain seen earlier. An interesting note here, he is never referred to by name in the movie, it is only in the closing credits that you learn it. He is living among the ruins, and is none to pleased to have his domain disturbed.

That pretty much lays out the story, basically their isn't much. I have long since given up the idea of imposing my expectations of a story on some of these types of films. There are still times when I want a story, but I went into this knowing it was a low budget affair, and with the hope of some decent gore and a creepy atmosphere. I pleased to say it delivers.

The hotel is dank, dusty, and has an aura of something bad. The time spent in the hotel starts off slowly, but picks up as Goodnight starts to go about his work. At first we get voyeuristic glimpses as he peeks through the walls at his future victims. It isn't long before he comes out in full force, picking them off one by one.

I was very happy to see the blood combined with some truly cringe inducing moments. Dragging them off one by one, killing them in a variety of ways. When you first see the victim brigade, at the start, place your bets as to the order of their deaths, see how many you get right. One of them I was way off on, I had thought that this person would have played a greater part in the climax, rather than not even make it. That was a missed story opportunity. I don't want to tell you what it is, rather watch for yourself.

The story actually did surprise me a bit as we got further into the movie and learned more about Goodnight's motives. There is actually a rather interesting back story and reasoning behind the man of few words. It may not be terribly deep, or original, but I liked it nonetheless, and it was more than I was expecting.

The cast is mediocre at best. None of them are awful, and they do a decent job of screaming and looking scared when the macho posturing doesn't work. Glen Jacobs, credited as Kane, does a wonderful job despite the lack of dialog. This guy is a huge, imposing presence onscreen, and he does a great job at playing the relentless killer. Granted, that may not be a tough thing to do, but he was terribly convincing!

See No Evil was directed by Gregory Dark. Dark has most recently been a director of music videos for the likes of Britney Spears and Xzhibit, but before that his bread and butter was in the adult industry. Here, he takes a turn towards the mainstream giving a low budget film a well produced look and a gritty feel. I am not acquainted with his past work, but he does a very good job here directing from a screenplay by Dan Madigan. Madigan's prior work exists only on Smackdown, one of the WWE's weekly shows.

Bottomline. Don't go into this expecting anything great. Do go in expecting to have a fun time with a movie that isn't terribly scary, but provides some decent jumps. I liked it and I am not going to apologize for it.
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