"Seven foot tall. Four hundred pounds. A rusty steel plate screwed into his skull and razor sharp fingernails that pluck out his victims' eyes like grapes from a fruit bowl. Meet reclusive psychopath Jacob Goodnight (Kane, heavyweight WWE wrestling star) holed up in the dilapidated Blackwell Hotel with nothing but his nightmares for company. That is until eight delinquents arrive for community service duty, along with the cop that put a bullet through Goodnight's head four years before ... and the game is on against this indestructible force of nature with a grudge."
I think it was Roger Corman who always suggested the best way to break into movies was to get a group of good looking kids together and then find creative ways to off them. Gregory Dark has certainly taken this to heart with SEE NO EVIL, a run-of-the-mill - if sporadically entertaining - throwback to the golden days of the subgenre.
A well executed prologue sees a cop and his partner investigating a disturbance. They find more than they bargain for at a house festooned in religious paraphernalia: a young woman bound, with her eyes pulled out. Suddenly a hulking figure leaps from the shadows with an axe and hacks one of the cops to death, before cutting off the right arm of the other man. Before he can finish the job the police officer manages to fire a shot that blasts through his attacker's head, which apparently doesn't kill him ...
Four year's later, the surviving cop, Frank (Steven Vidler), has now switched jobs to become a screw at a young offender's institution. Mirroring the plot of the same year's Brit slasher, WILDERNESS, he has been charged to take a rag-tag group to do some community service to help reduce their sentences. Along for the ride is also a female screw and her female charges. It's here that you quickly realise that Dark isn't going for social-realism with SEE NO EVIL. Rather than a lardy gaggle of trailer trash, these crims would look more at place pouting for Janice Dickenson's Modeling Agency. As you might expect, character development isn't high on the agenda. The one dimensional ciphers include a bitchy shop-lifter, Zoe (Rachael Taylor); an animal rights activist, Melissa (Penny McNamee); the requisite black guy, Tyson (Michael J. Pagan); the bad-ass white guy with a goatee, Michael (Luke Pegler) and so on.
Rather than washing floors like Naomi Campbell (arguably more in keeping with the acres of razor sharp cheekbones on display), the group arrive at a massive, dilapidated building. The art-deco Blackwell Hotel has been abandoned since the owner and his cohorts were killed in a fire back in the 70s. They are introduced to Margaret (Cecily Polson), a kindly old lady who tells them they are to help clean the place up as it's going to be transformed into hostel for the homeless.
This rousing little speech does little to imbue any community spirit into the bee-stung ner'do-wells, and it isn't much time before they down the bleach, strip off, get high and begin to get jiggy with it. Of course, in a film of this nature these neglection of duties won't go down well with the hotel's resident psycho. Soon the over-sized killer is punishing this tardiness by making sure no one will check out of the Blackwell alive ...
SEE NO EVIL should have it all. What it does have is a striking location with the rotting, once grand hotel (which looks even more impressive due to some excellent cinematography). It's an ideal backdrop for the ensuing cat n' mouse theatrics. However, like the bane of many a modern horror movie, SEE NO EVIL is edited at a million miles an hour (in this respect it has more in common with CSI than it does with HALLOWEEN (1978)). If it gets much worse they're going to need to put warnings for epileptics at the start of these things! Also, like most of the most recent slasher films, SEE NO EVIL eschews the post-modernist humour and plays it straight - well as straight it can play it given the inherent ridiculousness of having Models inc. barely breaking a nail during the big 'clear up and ensuing pandemonium.
However, perhaps the film's biggest problem is also it's biggest selling point. To be honest I know very little about WWE, nor Kane (who plays the film's killer, Jacob Goodnight). Back when I was kid, wrestling was all pantomime (I hear it still is), with larger than life middle-aged fat men in lycra doing belly flops onto each other. Old ladies spilling their stout screaming abuse or encouragement to tongue-in-cheek 'stars' like Giant Haystacks and Big Daddy. Gregory Dark has tried to give his killer more depth than his victims - his back story being one of abuse by an overbearing mother (uh-huh), who also happens to be a religious nut (double uh-huh). This abuse has caused him to flip and pluck the eyeballs out of hapless teens, so they can see - yes, you guessed it - no evil (again, seemingly referencing another modern slasher flick, the same year's BLACK CHRISTMAS redux). To be honest, Kane doesn't do too bad. He certainly has the hulking monster routine down relatively well (although he's never as imposing as, say, Kane Hodder was in the FRIDAY sequels, bar the scene where he comes though a two-way mirror which at least causes a jolt). However, he is required to run the gamut of emotions from mad to morose to being consumed by guilt. Unfortunately, Kane's emotional range is, ahem, somewhat limited. Perhaps he would have done better with a mask and dressed in a bell hop's uniform with a funny little hat at a jaunty angle on his head. As it is, despite his nifty hook on the end of a chain, Kane is sadly a pretty nondescript bogey man. However, what I did like was the dinky hotel bell alarm system that lets the psycho know when teens are fornicating, wherever they are in the hotel - a service no self-respecting slasher movie nutter should be without!
Sadly, the rest of the cast don't exactly distinguish themselves either - although, to be fair, they're not exactly given much to work with. At least SEE NO EVIL throws a few sidewinders as far as who hits the floor first. Unfortunately, it is 'blessed' with a twist so obvious that only a neon sign and a claxon could have telegraphed it better. Again, whilst it is obviously looking back to the past and subgenre's heyday, SEE NO EVIL also pays lip service to the current vogue of sadistic horror: at least the murder by mobile phone will have a pleasing, ahem, ring to it for anyone who has had to sit in a crowded cinema with a moron blah-blahing into the mouthpiece.
SEE NO EVIL does have in its favour a few good energetic chase sequences towards the end, but even at a trim 81 minutes it outstays its welcome and is ultimately forgettable popcorn fodder. Nothing wrong with popcorn fodder of course (especially that with an extra splattering of grue), but if you're looking for an excellent recent return to the subgenre's glory days then you'd do better checking out that same year's DARK RIDE, which whilst just as vacuous does it all with much more style and gusto. And, as for ocular violence, Umberto Lenzi's barmy giallo, EYEBALL (1975), has it beat hands own.
female:7 / male:8
1) Male axed to death
2) Male has arm cut off with axe
3) Male found with eyes plucked out
4) Female killed and eyes plucked out
5) Female killed and dragged with hook
6) Male hooked through his mouth
7) Male has his eyes plucked out
8) Male has his eyes plucked out
9) Female attacked by dogs
10) Female forced to swallow mobile phone
11) Male crushed to death
12) Female's head impaled on spike
13) Male falls to his death