Last year, when I wrote about the body-mod cult classic American Mary, I predicted that Jen and Sylvia Soska‘s next film, the WWE slasher sequel See No Evil 2 would continue to prove that they deserved their Twisted Twins sobriquet, and damn if I wasn’t right. Working from a script by Nathan Brookes and Bobby Lee Darby, but with free rein to tinker with it all they wanted, the Soskas brought along American Mary herself, Katharine Isabelle and recruited Scream Queen legend Danielle Harris to face off against the hulking Glenn “Kane” Jacobs as Jacob Goodnight.
What we end up with here is an irony-free love-letter to 80s slasher flics that, while lacking in surprises and plot, is very strong in character work, performances, and most-importantly, direction. This is one beautifully shot abandoned-hospital nightmare.
The story picks up immediately on the heels of 2006’s See No Evil, as the victims of Goodnight’s first bloody rampage are brought to the morgue, along with his massive corpse, just as morgue attendant Amy (Harris) is about to leave to attend her birthday party. Her work crush, Seth (Kaj-Erik Eriksen), and wheelchair-bound boss Hess (Eklund), urge her to go, but she volunteers to stay and help with the sudden influx of bodies. Bad decision, Amy. Bad decision.
Rather than let her miss out on her birthday bash, her friends, led by serial-killer obsessed sexpot Tamara (Isabelle) show up at the morgue to party the night away. So when the suddenly not-dead Goodnight rises from his slab, he’s got a fresh batch of partying kids to slaughter for their sins. And with that, we’re off to the races, and the Soskas begin cranking up the style, the wit, and the violence until they reach their twist on the “Final Girl” concept.
In what could be a decidedly dull, run-of-the-mill slasher film, the Soskas did the smart thing and bulked up the characters, giving us people who, while destined to be meat for the grinder, at least have a bit of heart and personality. The casting was a big help here, with everybody bringing their A-game. Even the smallest parts, girlfriend Kayla (Chelan Simmons) and Tamara’s boyfriend Carter (Lee Majdoub), get moments to shine — even if they both are easy prey for Goodnight. Greyston Holt as Amy’s brother Will gets more screentime and character development, but not so much that you think he’s going to be around till the end. Although with his size and build, I was expecting him to put up a little more of a fight.
Harris and Eriksen do great jobs as the emotional heart of the film, and the sheer visual impact of seeing them against the mountain that is Jacobs does half the work of selling the level of danger their characters are in. They mainly just run around trying to hide, but they play off of each other naturally and you can really believe their relationship was just getting ready to move from nervous flirtation to something real before this fateful night.
Jacobs is also allowed to stretch and help bring a bit of pathos to Jacob Goodnight that allows him to become something a little more complex and interesting than just a mindless killing machine. He’s a brutalized child in a monster’s body, behaving and responding to the world in the only way his demented mother would allow.
The real stars of this movie, though, are Katharine Isabelle and the Soskas themselves. Isabelle seems to be having the time of her life playing Tamara and brings such a natural intelligence and sexuality to the role that you can tell it was written just for her. She once again proves, as with her recent roles in Hannibal and American Mary, that she is an underrated talent that makes everything she touches that much better.
And the Soskas can apparently do no wrong. Every shot in this film is beautiful. There’s not a single throwaway moment, despite the extended set-up and introduction of the characters. They effortlessly cut in moments from the first film to establish the backstory for viewers like me, who missed the first film and haven’t had a chance to get caught up; they play with the traditional gender roles for films like this where the men are the ones freaking out and trying to run away while the women are sexually aggressive and are courageously loyal; they provide a number of violent kills without going overboard with the gore — broadening the audience while maintaining the integrity of the film; and most importantly, they know and love this genre so much that See No Evil 2 could stand alongside any of the classics from the 80s.
So while See No Evil 2 isn’t a game-changer and doesn’t really break new ground structurally, it’s an extremely solid piece of work that never gets boring and always keeps the audience engaged. It lacks a little of the characteristic Soska charm, but still retains enough of their personality to make this a distinctive film in the current horror landscape. I really want to see them get back to shooting their own scripts, though. Until then, this will do.
See No Evil 2 is now available on DVD, Blu-ray, and VOD.