|If this happy fellow was stalking you|
in a morgue at night, it would probably NOT
be an ideal situation for you to be in.
|Moments of Tenderness - Soska Style|
See No Evil 2 (2014)
Dir. Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska
Scr. Nathan Brookes, Bobby Lee Darby
Starring: Glenn "Kane" Jacobs, Danielle Harris, Katharine Isabelle
Review By Greg Klymkiw
I couldn't get Alfred Hitchcock out of my head while watching the third feature film by the Soska Sisters. In particular I was forced to recall Hitch's espionage thriller Torn Curtain. His picture has one of the most brilliant, harrowing and excruciatingly violent set pieces in movie history which, I believe, should be every young filmmaker's guide to what makes a movie great (and not just those who are making genre films). At the very least, the scene provides an example of the sort of elements most naturally-gifted filmmakers should always be thinking about.
The scene involves a mathematician and a simple rural housewife forced to kill a deadly East German Stasi agent as silently as possible in a farmhouse kitchen. Neither man nor woman have experience in such heinous shenanigans. The odds of succeeding are stacked against them big time and as such, the hurdles they face are rife with conflict. Even more importantly, Hitch makes the fullest use of the setting for the foul deed to be carried out, thus begging the question: if they're not killers and don't even have the required implements to kill, what do they use? Anything and everything at their disposal in the kitchen. (Just thinking about this probably places any number of horrendous thoughts in your head and yet, none of them will come close to the sheer horror and brutality of what's actually used.) The bottom line is that the scene must naturally use what would be at these characters' fingertips and be the sorts of things they'd need to use with very little time to think it through (hence, the aforementioned notion of not automatically guessing what's used).
Fuelling the scene thematically is Hitchcock's desire to make it clear just how hard it is for a "normal" person to kill someone - taking a life is not an easy thing, even if it's the only thing to do to survive - especially on the levels of practicality and morality. The cherry Hitch places on the ice cream sundae is that the historical backdrop is post-war Communist Germany during the Cold War. The victim is a German. His last breath will occur within a household item that's sickeningly symbolic of what Germans did to their prisoners in concentration camps.
You might wonder why I'm spending so much time discussing this ONE scene in an old (and even quite flawed, save for a few great scenes) Hitchcock film. Well, it serves two purposes. One, it places the Soskas, as filmmakers, in that wonderful sphere of natural born killers - or rather, uh, directors.
Though See No Evil 2, a sequel to Gregory Dark's mediocre slasher film made eight years earlier for WWE is clearly a gun-for-hire picture for the identical twin auteurs, they seem to have been given a great deal of rope to assist in the development of a screenplay that not only includes many of their trademark touches and thematic concerns, but, in so doing, they've also been blessed to employ their natural gifts as genuine filmmakers and as if, by osmosis, have conjured Hitch's spirit in rendering a picture that is sickeningly brutal, but also darkly, grotesquely funny and most of all, employs the most important elements of setting in order to reflect upon character, theme and just plain old terror-inducement.
It's a quiet night night in the city morgue. Good thing, too. Wheelchair-bound boss-man Holden (Michael Eklund) seems happy enough to let his star employee Amy (Danielle Harris, the always gorgeous scream queen) book off early to join some pals at the bar to celebrate her birthday while he and her significant-sniffer-around-her beau Seth (Kaj-Erik Eriksen) preside over the dull goings-on. Ah, but as fate would have it, all three need to hang about since an emergency phone call informs them that the morgue is going to be soon flooded with corpses from a nearby mass-killing-spree. Gosh, golly, gee! They're also going to be blessed with the body of the killer himself, the seven-foot, 300-pound, Jacob Goodnight (former WWE wrasslin' champ Glenn "Kane" Jacobs).
That's a decent stacked deck. To begin with, that is.
Once Amy informs her pals she's gotta work, they decide to bring the party to the morgue. Armed with all manner of booze and hallucinogenic comestibles, Amy's goth-and-death-obsessed party animal bestie Tamara (Katharine Isabelle), babe-o-licious and hunk-o-licious pals (respectively), Kayla (Chelan Simmons) and Carter (Lee Majdoub), plus Amy's dour, obsessive (almost creepily Oedipal) brother Will (Greyston Holt). Needless to say, this clutch of new characters add a number of interesting elements to the mix, but also beef up what will, no doubt be added slasher fodder.
Good, another stacked deck. Oh, and might I remind you, we're in a morgue. Feel free to do the math on what implements (and inmates) this joint will be loaded with to add to the inevitable party games.
Now, we get to the pièce de résistance of stacked decks: all seven feet, 300-lbs of serial killer Jacob Goodnight are not dead at all. The lad's merely been resting. Now he's ready for more naughty horseplay. Let's put those thinking caps back on, folks. It doesn't take a Rhodes Scholar to figure out what this bloodthirsty, mightily-engorged-penis-on-two-legs will have at his disposal. He dons a mask used for burn victims. Those, I can assure you, are bowel-movement-inducingly scary. Ah, but what else will this throbbing gristle find? Duh, it's a morgue. All manner of blades are available here and Jacob's only too delighted to pack as many delectable items as possible. He's a crafty S.O.B. so he finds a way of sealing everyone in the morgue - all ways out are locked.
We have a morgue full of babes, hunks and one cripple and a killer on the rampage.
Need I say more?
Not really, save to inform you that screenwriters Nathan Brookes and Bobby Lee Darby have imbued the tale with a whack of clearly-Soska-inspired character-quirks including guilt, Oedipal obsession, promise unfulfilled, the same promise buried deep inside and aching to be implemented in surviving, mega-grrrrrllllll-power, unabashed sexual abandon and empowerment-galore.
Danielle Harris has always displayed promise as an actress, but the Soskas manage to coax a great performance out of her that's layered, sensitive and yeah, tough and sexy. Harris is always a welcome Scream Queen, but here, she displays acting chops heretofore only hinted at. I hope she never abandons genre cinema, but the Soskas have managed to create an atmosphere wherein her genuine talent shines in ways that a few intelligent producers (mostly an oxymoron, I admit) will be offering Harris a wide bevy of roles in a whole passel of different styles of pictures. (Hell, I'd LOVE to see a contemporary version of the great Greek tragedy The Trojan Women set in the war-torn east of Ukraine and featuring Harris in the haunting, harrowing role of Cassandra.) And let's not forget all the stuff Harris normally brings to the table. There will be kills in See No Evil 2, but there will also be mucho-ass-kicking, tear-assing around and narrow-escapes and rescues, a lot of it from the hot, shapely and physically fit Ms. Harris.
Hot Canuck thespian missy Katharine Isabelle (American Mary and Ginger Snaps) is allowed to go completely into the madcap stratosphere and delivers a performance that taps delightfully into her natural sense of humour, but luckily does not leave either her intensity, nor jaw-dropping-camera-loves-her sexiness behind. (Personally, I'd love to see a Soska remake/reboot/retelling of Lynne Stopkewich's Kissed with Isabelle in the Molly Parker role. If one does a careful analysis of such things, Americans have successfully remade a number of great genre films that wisely placed them within the context of varying political/historical contexts. If any Canadian picture was ripe for this, it'd be Kissed.)
See No Evil 2 is ultimately one scary-ass, intelligent and superbly crafted slasher film - gorgeously shot, cut and, of course, directed. In actual fact of matter, there aren't too slasher pictures even worth thinking about, let alone seeing. The Soskas have delivered one that's at the top of the heap.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: **** 4-Stars
See No Evil 2 is available on Blu-Ray. Sadly, it was not released theatrically save for selected festival showings. But it's out there and definitely worth owning. Avoid digital downloads and streaming, though. It doesn't do the picture justice. Screw DVD too. Same deal. The Blu-Ray is perfection.