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May 19, 2006 |

By Phillip Stephens | Film | May 19, 2006 |

I suppose these things are all about perspective. I could come away from my time with See No Evil and bleat apoplexy about its amateurish cast and story ripped from any Fangoria fan letter, not to mention that the main antagonist and the production company are deeply affiliated with professional wrestling (really, is there a more deplorable fan base?). But I doubt I’d be kidding anyone, least of all myself, by evaluating the movie in such a manner. This is throwaway dime-store horror clearly aimed at slasher fans, or at least those with a depraved sense of humor and, since I count myself among both, I came away from See No Evil having had much more fun than I’d care to admit.

In college, several friends and I decided on a whim that our spare time on late afternoons should be spent watching the slasher franchises that had been famous in our youths but that we’d been forbidden to see. Every once in a while we’d collect in an apartment and whittle away at the “classics” — mainstays Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Halloween, as well as the absurd surfeit of sequels. After we quickly became steeped in the slasher mythology, swilling beer and regaling the films with “MST3K”-style commentaries became one of the highlights of my collegiate experience. Somehow watching fluff like that appealed perfectly to our sense of irony and degenerate humor — encapsulating much of what I enjoyed from that time in my life.

In this purely exploitative fashion, See No Evil can be a raucous good time for those of us who have a feel for the genre and its brutal quirks. I had every reason to be skeptical of a film that gives acting tasks to a pro wrestler and directorial control to a guy who makes skin-flicks (including — get this — Sex Freaks and New Wave Hookers 4!), but See No Evil revels in its own trashiness to such a degree that it’s successful. The setup: Two cops investigate a domestic disturbance call and discover the lair of a serial killer who enjoys gouging out people’s eyes. Said killer stumbles in and applies liberal dosages of axe to both officers, though one of them has the good sense to shoot him in the face.

Four years later, aforementioned officer is toting a prosthetic arm and trying to rehabilitate troubled youths at the juvenile lockup. A recent work-release arrangement has four guys and four girls of cookie-cutter ethnic/social diversities traveling to a dilapidated old hotel to help renovate. Given that this half-burned shanty is infested with rats and five sub-species of cockroach, you’d think that this would be a pretty colossal task, but all eight sweep for about five minutes before wandering off to do drugs, steal things, and ball the daylights out of one another. Unluckily for them, no one bothered to check the hotel’s myriad of hidden passages for gigantic murdering mutants …

At 6’9” and probably 400 pounds, Glen Jacobs — or, “Kane,” as I’m told he’s known to wrestling aficionados — doesn’t need any prosthetics or hockey masks to convince us he’s a monstrous killer, as the sheer immensity of his frame does most of the work for him. Kane begins dispatching everyone in the hotel with giant hooks and axes, showing unusual brutality by bonking his victims clumsily against ceilings and walls, which makes for macabre comedy.

See No Evil’s strengths lie in its faithfulness to the silly mores of the slasher/horror canon, but also in its comic exaggeration thereof. Every cliche about a character wandering off alone or having sex as a fast-forward to his or her butchery holds true in this film. In fact, the killer (whose mother, we learn in flashbacks, was a torturing quasi-Christian fanatic) has such a distinct qualm with sex that he’s jerry-rigged all the hotel’s beds to alert him whenever the springs start bouncing! One such couple meanders off to sex each other up, only to set off the booby trap (pun, anyone?) and have Kane barge in to dismember them. I couldn’t make this shit up if I tried.

The movie is replete with moments such as these: Ridiculous scenarios, impalements, eyeball-gouges and general gore galore, all pumped up to ape and yet thumb its nose at conventional horror archetypes. I’m not going to pretend that See No Evil is laudable to anyone save demented slasher fans but, for those of us detached enough to find mindless barbarity entertaining or humorous, this is a reasonably good diversion. Just don’t ask me to admit as much in public.

Phillip Stephens is a movie critic for Pajiba.

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