Directors: Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska
MPAA Rating: R
I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t like Gregory Dark’s 2006 horror-thriller See No Evil. While it introduced a new crazed psychopath, Jacob Goodnight, to genre fans, it didn’t leave much of an impression. The film arrived when torture-porn horror films were beginning to reach their peak. Films like Saw and Hostel were pushing the envelope in terms of what horror films can get away with or even show. At the time, the genre became more about shock, blood and just how brutal and gross can you get. After a while you can become so desensitized that it becomes boring. That pretty much summed up my opinion of the original – all shock and brutality and little substance – to the point it was forgotten. It’s 2014 and here comes See No Evil 2, and much to this viewer’s surprise, it’s better than the original and is a pretty well made slasher film.
Three morgue technicians on the graveyard shift are going about their routine when the bodies from the Blackwell Hotel Massacre begin to roll in. Seeing how things are about to get busy, Amy (Danielle Harris) decides to cancel her plans for the evening and to stay on with her late-night cohorts Holden (Michael Eklund) and Seth (Kaj-Erik Eriksen). Being that it was her birthday plans that she had to bail on, her friends decide to bring the party to her. Unbeknownst to them, the dead body of Jacob Goodnight is not as it appears, and his reign of terror continues.
See No Evil 2 sees a tonal shift that moves away from the brutal-but-dull mayhem of the original to being a more traditional slasher film, and it’s an unexpected but welcome change of pace. Nathan Brookes and Bobby Lee Darby, in their feature film writing debut, have penned a decent throwback to ’80s slasher films, when the emphasis was more on character and building suspense. Much like the granddaddy of slasher films, Carpenter’s Halloween, and its follow up, the sequel picks up immediately after the first, and like Halloween II, the action takes place in a medical facility. The setting is much more effective than an old abandoned building, which is where the first took place. The film is brought to the screen by Jen and Sylvia Soska, directors of American Mary, with a surprising amount of restraint and a little twisted humor thrown in for good measure. They work within the constructs of the genre but never get excessive or over the top with their use of gore and violence. They have a steady hand with building tension, and sometimes it occurs during humorous moments.
The film features a pair of genre veterans. Danielle Harris is effective as Amy, our diminutive heroine. As she did in other slasher films such as Hatchet II, she always brings it. Katharine Isabelle appears as Amy’s friend Tamara and nearly steals the show. Glenn Jacobs returns as Jacob Goodnight, and he’s as menacing and brutal as he was in the first but is more terrifyingly restrained and much more effective here. The cast also features Kaj-Erik Eriksen, Chelan Simmons, Lee Majdoub and Greyston Holt.
In a time where horror films are all about demons, zombies and found footage, it’s refreshing to see a traditional slasher film that isn’t hung up on the flash but rather more about the substance. Is See No Evil 2 a paragon of the genre? No, far from it. It still has its flaws but often they are flaws you’ll see in countless other horror films. It does have a nice pace, solid makeup effects, likable characters and some unexpected twists and turns. Genre fans will not only enjoy the film but the Soska sisters’ vision as well.