See No Evil and all the images you see in this review are owned by Lionsgate Films and WWE Studios
Directed by Gregory Dark
We’re back with another SPOOKY movie that only exists because of Vince McMahon’s absurd little empire, and in this case the connection is much more direct than with DOOM. See, even though DOOM starred Dwayne “We’re still only crediting him as The Rock” Johnson it TECHNICALLY wasn’t a WWE film as that particular offshoot of the brand had barely come into existence at the time having only been second or third tier production house on bigger studio’s films and Big Boy Vince didn’t even have a hand in producing it. DOOM was a Hollywood movie through and through, but the landscape was about to change as the very next year WWE Studios (then known as WWE Films) were set to release their first three feature films under their banner with this being one of them. Seems like a simple enough premise to be sure, stick one of your monster men in a slasher film, and they certainly knew what the hell they were doing when they made The Marine the same year which is one of the most gloriously over the top action films ever made, so will this be an underrated gem in the genre or are we in for the cinematic equivalent of Halloween Havoc 1998; i.e. one long string of mediocrity followed by a jaw dropping botched shit show at the end!? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with a prologue where two cops enter a rundown house presumably on some sort of tip or a report of a disturbance. Needless to say that what they find inside is more than just a mere disturbance as the place has clearly been modeled after the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and they find a woman who is still alive, but has had her eyeballs plucked out. The mother plucker by the way is in the other room and manages to take out one of the cops but can only manage to take an arm off the cop who kind of looks like Aaron Eckhart. Like Chris Hemseworth, our rather inefficient slasher learns that you should REALLY go for the head as the cop manages to pop off a shot at HIS head with his good arm.
Well that wasn’t too bad! If you don’t have much going for you, then keep it short at least! No, not really as the movie is sadly not THAT merciful (though it does helpfully clock in at a brisk hour and twenty including credits) as we cut to four years later, and I’m just gonna go ahead and spoil it if it wasn’t obvious enough already, the killer DOES in fact come back into the movie. HOW!? What in the hell could have POSSIBLY happened between a bullet between the eyes and our time jump that would have led to him being alive AND out of jail!? Even Jason Voorhees would have been caught! Hell, he WAS caught at least TWICE (Jason Goes to Hell and Jason X) so how is it that Corporate Kane over here managed to get the hell back up and escape police capture!? I don’t know, but before we get anywhere NEAR that part of the story, we have to set up who our cast of victims will be and the circumstances they will find themselves in that’ll make it VERY easy for our killer to do his thing. Now if you thought that the killer somehow surviving and escaping was ridiculous, get a load of THIS shit! So super cop has sort of retired I think and is now working with troubled youth, and by troubled youth I mean people clearly in their twenties who don’t look like they’ve spent a single day in jail ever. Hell, they’re ALL wearing street clothes and the women have really nice makeup and perfect hair! That’s small potatoes however when compared to… whatever “plan” this is to rehabilitate them. Super Cop and I guess someone from the women’s prison who I will call Prison Mom take a bus load of co-ed super models to the most decrepit looking hotel you’ve EVER seen, and the goal is for them (we’re talking maybe ten prisoners in total) to clean this place up in three days. If they do that, they get a month of their sentence, because that’s a thing I guess!? The hotel is owned by the Sweet Miss Margaret who wants to turn it into a homeless shelter which seems PRETTY damn ambitious of her when it’d probably be cheaper and quicker to just tear the place down and start from scratch. Seriously, this place is such a shithole that you would NEVER take a bunch of untrained laborers to “spruce the place up” as this hotel is SO far gone that sweeping the floors isn’t gonna do a damn thing!
Not only that, but they don’t go back to prison at the end of the day! They’re working for three days AND THEY ARE STAYING IN THE HOTEL! THIS RUSTY HELL HOLE!? If I was ANY of these kids, I’ll call a freaking lawyer immediately as this is some seriously cruel and unusual punishment! The premise is absolutely pointless and makes no sense at all (THEY DON’T EVEN HAVE TRACKING DEVICES ON THEM!) and basically any other premise could have worked here. It’s all just the most obnoxious kind of stylism that doesn’t serve the story itself. Horror movies are scary and gritty, so let’s have our characters staying in the biggest shithole imaginable. We want to be tough and hardcore so let’s make all the characters criminals! In trying so hard yet can’t muster an inch of credibility, and it’s not even like this kind of over the top excessive style CAN’T work (Rob Zombie’s made a career of it), but here it just feels lifeless and half-hearted. But hey, all the crappy direction and plot contrivances are mere small potatoes if the acting and scares are up to snuff, right? Yeah… about that. Look, I don’t know if any of these people have gone on to have stellar careers or whatever, but the cast across the board simply do not give a crap about this movie and it shows in their performances. Hey, I don’t blame them! When you’re asked to work with material like THIS, what else can you do!?
Well we might as well do the roll call since we’ll be spending the next twenty minutes with these people while See No Evil Man (I don’t think the villain ever gets an actual name in this) just stalks around the hotel and bides his time. Two of the crooks (Richie and Tyson) are straight up pulling a Scooby-Doo as they think there’s a secret safe in the hotel, Kira wants to escape because her abusive ex Michael is in there with them and she’s getting help from Christine, and… yeah that’s about it. The other three are just kinda futzing about while Super Cop and Prison Mom don’t do shit about it. It doesn’t even seem like they have a schedule or any sort of goals laid out as every time we see them their either half-heartedly dusting a wall or doing nothing at all in their assigned rooms. Oh wait! Kira has an obligatory shower scene which is SUPPOSED to be sexy but comes off as ridiculous considering the state of the bathroom she’s in. I wouldn’t take off my jacket in there for fear of getting tetanus, let alone get bare ass naked!
It’s almost astounding how meat headed and unpalatable this movie is what with it’s over the top set design and distressingly unlikable characters, particularly Michael who walks in during the shower scene and tries to rape her before being chased off by Christine. Yeah, that’s a thing that happens and we just jump from there to the Scooby-Doo Gang with a literal map in their hands walking the halls and checking the doors. Well they may not have found Old Man Blackwell’s Hidden Treasure, but they do manage to find a dead homeless dude with his eyes ripped out (apparently that’s See No Evil Man’s gimmick) which freaks out Richie who soon ends up getting caught by the villain, and by caught I mean the dude throws a hook on a chain right into his back like he’s Scorpion from Mortal Kombat. One down, seven to go! No wait, ten if we include Super Cop, Prison Mom, and Sweet Miss Margaret. For a movie so short, it already feels like it’s taking forever. Thankfully we get to kill number two fairly quickly as Prison Mom is riding the SOMEHOW STILL WORKING elevator and gets trapped by See No Evil Man who throws her against the ceiling and rips her eyes out.
Alright, so we’re two down and no one’s the wiser as to See NO Evil Man’s schemes, whatever they may be. Tyson, the other half of the Scooby-Doo gang, is still running down the halls in the upper levels I guess and Kira and Christine put their escape plan into action which includes… climbing out the window. Seriously, what was Super Cop planning to tell the Warden when a bunch of these kids inevitably escape? WHO THOUGHT THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA!? It’s all moot anyway because See No Evil Man bursts into the room and kidnaps Kira which is what FINALLY gets Super Cop’s attention and it’s also timed perfectly with Tyson’s return to the bottom floor who gives him a description of the guy. Well now that the IMPORTANT characters are all on the same page (no one’s bothering to find the other four inmates to tell them there’s a serial killer on the loose), Super Cop goes to confront his greatest foe one last time! No wait, he dies pretty much immediately in what is probably the best kill in the entire movie.
Well damn! With the ONE competent person out of the picture, that just leaves Tyson and Christine to find Kira before it’s too late! Oh, what about the others? Yeah, they’re having the worst party imaginable in one of the upper rooms. All dust, dirt, bugs, and with like two joints between them. I mean I guess you’ve got to get your entertainment where you can find it, but this is all just padding until See No Evil Man runs wild and takes them all out. Speaking of which, we should probably get into the villain himself. Now as I’ve mentioned already (I’m sure I’m just beating a dead horse at this point), there are no real characters being set up in this movie; just shallow personalities in a meat suit ready to be violently eviscerated as long as it’s within the budget. You know who DOES get the characterization and proper backstory though? See No Evil Man. Well… sort of. I say “proper backstory” but in reality it’s just as half assed as everything else in here, but the intent was clearly for us to understand him and his motivations above any of the other characters in the movie which I consider to be a cardinal sin of the genre. I mean I guess it’s not TOO hard to see why this is the case here since WWE Studios is banking on the star power of sitting Tennessee mayor Glenn Jacobs, also known by his ring name Kane, and having someone marginally famous slashing up teenagers has worked in the past with movies like Tony Todd in Candyman, the revealed slasher (or slashers!) in Scream, and even Warwick Davis as The Leprechaun. However, it’s an amateur mistake to think that that is ALL you need as even the Nightmare on Elm Street movies which was a franchise driven entirely by an overwhelming personality always had strong and well devolved characters in the lead (Nancy, Jesse, Kristin, Lisa, and I GUESS Maggie if we have to acknowledge Freddy’s Dead). Even if we were just gonna focus on how BADASS and DEEP the villain is in this film compared to everyone else, he STILL comes up short of even the most generic of slasher villains.
I’ll admit that Mr. Kane has a certain amount of screen presence due to his physicality, but the story they give him is totally asinine. It’s just a generically abusive religious upbringing with no personality or context to it. His mother locked him in a cage and yelled at him about SIN (like you do), but the scenes are so brief and bereft on context that it doesn’t MEAN anything! We don’t even get to see his evolution as a killer as he’s completely passive in the flashbacks. The leap from being a victim of abuse by religious extremists to ritualistically murdering people and taking their eyes is a pretty big one and PROBABLY could have used a bit more explanation (they certainly weren’t hurting for time considering how short the movie is), but instead it looks like a low rent music video from a fifth rate Metallica knock off.
Where the heck was I even going with this before I went on a rant there? Oh right! Four pot smoking kids who might as well tape STAB ME signs to their back and sprits barbeque sauce on their necks. Okay, so three of them bite the dust rather quickly (Michael SOMEHOW manages to avoid him entirely) with Hippie Lady Melissa (who’s in jail for rescuing animals from a pound that was going to euthanize them) falling off a roof and getting eaten by dogs and the valley girl Zoe getting a cell phone shoved down her throat. Is it just me or does the film seem to have a problem with women; what with the gratuitous nudity, pointless inclusion of rape, and rather mean spirited deaths here? At least now the playing field is nice and clear for us to get to the finale where Kira is locked in a cage (apparently See No Evil Man is keeping her alive because she has… religious tattoos?), Christine and Tyson have finally found See No Evil Man’s lair on the top floor, and now they have to sneak past the guy to free her and get the hell out of the place. Tyson manages to distract See No Evil Man which is the good news. The bad news? Well… let’s just say he’ll be remembered as a martyr. While See No Evil Man is doing his bone crunching thing, Christine tries to break Kira out of the cage but has no luck doing it. I mean the cage looks like it’s held together with thumb tacks and scotch tape, but nope! Can’t escape just yet! Christine hears someone coming and hides in the room, and the door opens to reveal… Sweet Miss Margaret! Oh yeah! I forgot about her! What’s she doing up here anyway? Well it turns out… she’s the abusive mother of See No Evil Man! WRESTLING SHOCK!! It turns out that she bought this place so that her son had a nice quiet place to do his Holy work and convinced Super Cop to bring a bunch of inmates here along with himself so that they can get their revenge for See No Evil Man getting shot in the head! Okay, that DOES answer a few questions and I like that they bothered to put a TWIST in here, but this also raises a few issues of its own. For one, how the hell did Super Cop not know this was See No Evil Man’s mother? Did they learn ABSOLUTELY NOTHING from that initial crime scene about the killer’s identity!? On top of that, the flashbacks CLEARLY showed that See No Evil Man and See No Evil Mom were living in a crappy mobile home, so how the heck did they afford this place!? Wait, hold on. It looks like this place was donated to the Society of Historical Preservation, and she’s a member of that. What, so organizations taking care of million dollar properties tend to recruit hillbilly Jesus freaks to SINGLE HANDEDLY oversee gigantic projects like this? Really? Ugh… whatever. The mom being in this movie at least gives us SOMETHING to sit up and pay attention too which is good because otherwise I’d have easily fallen asleep at this point. See No Evil Mom starts demanding that her son kill the SINFUL WHORE locked in the cage (I don’t think she knows what those words mean) but because See No Evil Man has FINALLY grown tired of her shit, he throws her ass clear across the room and impales her on one of the billion sharp objects protruding from the walls of this place! DAMN!! Well I guess that brings us up to TWO decent kills here!
Sadly this is the highlight of the movie as it just putters around for another ten minutes. See No Evil Man doesn’t REALLY have a revelation about his evil deeds and still takes Kira all for himself to… I guess keep like a doll or something (ugh…) so Christine has to try and get her back which goes about as bad as you’d expect. Things look pretty grim until… MICHAEL SHOWS UP and whacks him in the back with a pipe! Hooray! Wait what!? The RAPIST gets to save the day!? Are you KIDDING me with that shit? God dammit, we’re almost done. The combined effort of three twenty somethings is enough to overpower this hulking giant and they eventually manage to throw him out a window. A CGI rendering of Mr. Kane falls dozens of stories, crashes into a few things along the way, and eventually lands on the ground.
And that’s it! The three survivors escape and we cut to a dog peeing in See No Evil Man’s eye socket, and you know… what perfect way to sum up this movie! Watching this movie is the equivalent of piss going directly into your eye balls! I mean sure, I’ve seen WAY worse, but its crap like this that effectively killed the slasher genre for like a decade. It’s only now with recent releases like Happy Death Day and Halloween (no not that one or that one, the other one) that films like these might have another chance for prominence, so let’s hope that if nothing else this can serve as an example of what NOT to do when creating the next Friday the 13th knock off or Scream sequel. First, you’ve GOT to have characters worth caring about or otherwise there’s no tension to be had. I know we joke about the cavalcade of horror clichés in the early films, but honestly a lot of them (even the sequels) have casts that are MUCH better than the kind we saw in the wake of Scream in the early and mid-two thousands. Second, you’re cinematography has to fit the movie you’re trying to make. Rob Zombie knows how to make trashy aesthetics look effective and to create scenarios where they make sense. His movie 31 is ABOUT a dingy and seedy murder game so of course the arena is one giant festering cesspit. It makes no sense for anyone to take a look at this place and think that a group of unmotivated convicts are going to do ANYTHING to fix it which means that all the effort to make it look this grungy falls completely flat. Third (and by no means are these the ONLY rules to follow), you have to know what kind of villain your setting up and commit to it. If you WANT the more character driven bad guy, you need to explain his backstory with more than just random flashbacks. Heck, if they had just intercut scenes of Frailty in here and said that Jeremy Sumpter grew up to be this hulking mo-fo, it’d at least make the situation a lot more compelling! They just don’t know what to DO with See No Evil Man in here as he’s sometimes a one dimensional killing machine a la Michael Myers, other times a very human monster like Norman Bates, and then at the end he’s just… I don’t know, the boss in a Beat-Em-Up video game? Look, I know that slasher movies basically earned the trashy reputation they got in the eighties, but so many of the ones we still remember are great for a reason! They’ve got iconic characters, solid storytelling, and a modicum of restraint so that the extraordinary moments of violence are that much more thrilling to watch. This movie is just everything at once with no sense of discipline or craft and it all ends up being a mealy mothed mess that couldn’t pass muster at a Red Box, let alone in theaters. WWE Studios have yet to truly be a studio worth taking seriously outside of the WWE faithful with their bigger successes still feeling like other studio’s films that they just happened to glom onto like The Call, Oculus, and Sleight. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing as some of those straight from the ring to your local Redbox features are at least INTERESTING sits, and I’ll certainly be looking at a few more of them in the future, but it all feels like Vince is trying to recreate the once in a lifetime magic of John “The Dwayne” Rockson and that manufactured attitude is absolutely present in this miserable pile of bloody nonsense.