I finally made it to a theatre to see See No Evil. Unfortunately, this theatre was almost as dirty and decrepit as the old Blackwell Hotel in the film. The theatre smelled, and not with that wonderful smell of buttered popcorn, mind you, and I did have a chore finding a seat that did not look like it was used in one of Hostel's guest rooms. I hate sitting on stains of unknown origin (hey, what a catchy script title! Stains of Unknown Origin).
So much for that special movie-going experience. And ticket sales are down why? I was determined to not let my surroundings influence my viewing of the film. Much.
Perhaps it was my frame of mind, but it seems to me that "dirty" and "decrepit" in horror films are becoming, well, dirtier and more decrepit. When the police enter Jacob Goodnight's home, they enter your now typical "horror movie home for psycho, axe-wielder types": smoky, dark, and bloody marks splashed across the walls. A girl's screams force them to move in without backup, and this being a horror movie with an axe and hook-equipped — and really really big – psycho, they might as well have carried their own body bags to save time. The scene is brutal, gory, and ends as to be expected.
As we meet each tough-to-be-cool kid, a text description pops-up onscreen describing his or her crime against society, as if this were a video game and we are going to choose the character to play. Okay, I'll take the computer hacker delinquent for 500 life-points. I like computers. The computer hacker types usually last the longest in body-count films, too. Not sure why, though.
As each body bag, oh, sorry — delinquent — stepped on the bus, along with the police officer who had firsthand experience (really, no pun intended here if you see the film) with Mr. Goodnight, I imagined them in the order of elimination. He's going first, she's going second, etc., I am getting rather good at this sort of thing, but I must admit the director, Gregory Dark and writer Dan Madigan did manage to add a few twists that fooled me. They threw my count off. Damn.
The bus drops them off at the old Blackwell Hotel, which is appropriately "horror film dirty and decrepit"; so much so, I wondered why a handful of young delinquents are brought in for what is obviously a professional hazmat team's job. The hotel's rooms and hallways are dimly lit and saturated in grimy browns, blacks and dark colors. Roaches impudently crawl around and rats defiantly wiggle their tails in the open.
There is garbage, and stains of unknown origin everywhere, on the floors, the walls, the furniture, the bedding – in one word, disgusting. So, of course, the delinquents make themselves right at home, defiantly romping on the bedding and mattresses as if they were fresh linen, and nonchalantly sitting on just about anything they pleased. Meanwhile, I shifted uneasily in my seat, wondering what I was sitting on.
We are quickly treated to the obligatory naked girl in shower scene (see my non-survival tips for horror film victims: this is #9). To be fair, it is relevant to the story this time. Then the smackdown action begins, with Mr. Goodnight whipping out the old axe and hook. I must say I did enjoy Kane's performance. His acting in the WWF pays off here. There is also a nifty effect wherein when he's close and ready to attack, flies start buzzing around. You will know why when you see the movie. It reminded me of Candyman with his bees. What a revolting but oddly homey touch.
All through the mayhem, black and white flashbacks take us to Mr. Goodnight's upbringing, a sordid affair to be sure. The scenes are disturbing and well-handled, providing a backstory for why his fetish for eye-plucking and pickling is his number one hobby. (Eye-plucking seems to be one of those phases horror movies are going through these days.) I dare you to watch and not involuntarily close your own eyes during these scenes! Okay, I am indeed a wimp. But I still dare you.
The slaughter-action pacing is intense, fairly non-stop, and well choreographed (perhaps owing a little to Mr. Madigan's writing for WWF Smackdown!). It is by the numbers (or body count), but executed with verve and attention to gory detail. One scene that stands out is the terminal insult to injury when one unlucky girl pleads with Mr. Goodnight to let her go. Of course, not the best thing to ask when dangling out a high window with him holding the linen you are clinging to, but you cannot say he didn't listen. And if the long fall through the skylight doesn't kill you, well, that nice homeless dog you petted before, starved out of his mind — oh, and look, he's brought his cute but vicious buddies — might.
Eventually, the survivors wind up in the typically over the top "horror film den of slaughter," otherwise known as Mr. Goodnight's apartment. What, no maid service? Dead bodies, parts of bodies, and lots of eyes, jars and ichor dress up the room. (But I bet he watches American Idol in his spare time away from wreaking pain and death.) Again we are treated to flashbacks as he tries to communicate with his caged victim, showing his ill-treatment as a boy by his psychotically religious mom, who also kept him in a cage.
As noted in other reviews, the room bells are tied to various beds throughout the hotel, tinkling when anyone may get an inkling, if you catch my drift. The tinkling sends him off to find the culprits, and leads to a wonderful scene involving a two-way mirror, his ominous silhouette, and lots of crashing glass. The hunt is on once again, and the survivors start to fight back. A novel plot twist (at least I didn't see it coming) leads to a retribution and a non-sequel antic ending that is rather satisfying.
While the film may be your typical romp in a deserted hotel with a bunch of smart-ass delinquents and a psychotic — got something in your eye? — brick wall of a killer, it does have its endearingly horrific moments. The acting, including Kane's turn as the murder machine, is good, and all in all, the film is worth seeing at a cleaner theatre, or on DVD (when available).
(Note to self: add "don't look over window sill after pushing huge psychotic killer out of same to see if he fell" to horror movie non-survival tip #2).