Many modern horror films are often easily distinguished by ramped up/strobe editing, giving everything the look and feel of a Nine Inch Nails or Marilyn Manson video. Some folks downright loathe this, others love it. This reviewer could do without it, but as long as the story is still coherent and engaging, then it’s usually possible to forgive these rather pointless excursions. Gregory Dark’s film See No Evil is one of these films. Released almost as an afterthought in May among the biggest summer movies (Da Vinci, X3) it is now coming to DVD where hopefully it can find the audience it deserves.
(Note – there are some spoilers, including some regarding the film’s ending.)
In the opening sequence, two cops investigate a domestic disturbance in a particularly rundown area. They aren’t there long when they discover both victim and killer ([film producer] WWE’s Kane) One cop is killed, the other loses his hand.
Cut to four years later. The surviving cop (now with prosthetic arm) is about to supervise eight delinquent teens en route to community service. They are all charged with petty crimes (shoplifting, graffiti, etc), and are pretty much all jerks, save for one girl who loves animals and thus, in movie world, is automatically sympathetic. They are to clean up a condemned hotel over the course of a weekend in exchange for a lighter sentence. Unsurprisingly, the killer (named Jacob Goodnight, for the record) has made said hotel his home, and likes it the way it is.
Writer Dan Madigan uses the size of the hotel (10 stories) to his advantage, starting things off quickly (i.e. killing a few folks) while allowing the kids in other areas of the hotel to have a perfectly legitimate reason for not wondering where their friends are. As a result, the film moves along at a very fast pace, while at the same time giving each character some semblance of an identity and acting in a fairly believable human manner. It should also be noted that the actors here, while not exactly Olivier, are far better than usual for the most part, and all have convincing American accents (as the DVD making of reveals, they are all Australian).
Even more appealing than this, however, was the unabashed mean-spiritedness of the film. Not since Silent Night Deadly Night has a slasher film taken so much pleasure in being the cinematic equivalent of an asshole. (Warning again about spoilers) For example: the aforementioned animal lover? She is eaten by dogs. An old woman is impaled. The kid who is the biggest prick ends up being the survivor. Even Jacob takes a few low blows (stick around when the credits roll). The killings are brutal and gory, nothing new for the most part, but each one just has that extra little “twisting the knife in the back” moment to make them memorable (the title should give you a hint as to what most of the kids have in store, dead or alive).
This is Gregory Dark’s first horror film. His previous work was in the music video industry (apparent throughout the film) and in the adult film industry (not so apparent). While the music video flourishes do grow tiresome at times, they are at least motivated (presented as Jacob’s ‘point of view’) and are mostly comprised of a few quick shots here and there. It will be interesting to see what he does on his own, without a powerhouse like the WWE making sure their first film goes their way.
As the lead, Kane is fine. He doesn’t have any dialogue, and most of the time he’s onscreen he’s just throwing people around or smashing them with things, so he’s not exactly stretching his acting abilities, but he’s certainly a formidable slasher. As previously stated, the kids are all above average for this type, and the fact that they are all playing criminals gives them even more weight to carry (you’ll root for a few of them). The cop dies too quickly to make an impact, and in fact it’s a shame they didn’t hire some known tough guy actor to play him, making his early death more shocking.
Also, some credit must be given to the visual effects team: the ‘making of’ on the DVD revealed there were 450 digital effects shots, most of which are not obvious at all. More importantly, 90% of them are used the way digital effects should be used: to improve production value (adding floors to the hotel, achieving otherwise impossible (or too expensive) camera angles, etc.).
Is See No Evil a great horror film? Certainly not. But you know all those not-great movies that become great once you’re drunk and with a few buddies? See No Evil is the absolute king of those films, and you don’t even need the buddies and brew to enjoy it in the same way.
2.5/5 (or 5/5 if properly inebriated)