Saturday, May 20, 2006

See No Evil

SEE NO EVIL (Gregory Dark, 2006)

Assuming there are no other credit cookies, the final image in SEE NO EVIL is a dog urinating in an eye socket. There couldn't be a better way to describe the experience of watching this film.

WWE wrestler Kane stars as the ostensibly mute hulk who plucks eyeballs from his murder victims. (The Internet Movie Database page lists the character's name as Jacob Goodnight, although I don't recall any name being used in the film.) Fresh flesh is delivered to his doorstep when a group of juvenile delinquents are brought to the boarded-up Blackwell Hotel. The teens will get a month knocked off their sentences for three days spent cleaning the dingy historic building. They are accompanied by two corrections officers, one of whom lost a forearm to the ax-wielding brute four years ago but has no idea that the killer resides in the hotel.

A paint-in-blood-by-numbers horror film, SEE NO EVIL is genre filmmaking at its laziest. The hotel, which is to be locked at night (of course), has numerous secret passageways among the maze of rooms. With no visual layout provided to the audience, it's an easy shortcut to permit the villain to be anywhere without having to explain it. The youthful troublemakers are given a lot of freedom for supposedly hardened criminals. (Note the shots of razor wire and high walls at the detention facility.) The officers are remarkably lax in overseeing them and even knock back some shots while on duty, which makes it more convenient for the teens to wander, get separated, and meet their demises. Obviously realism isn't valued or required here--the blonde shoplifter struts around in high heels, hardly standard-issue incarceration footwear--but is it too much to ask for a little effort to make this believable?

The eight juvenile offenders, four boys and four girls, are introduced with freeze frames that give their names and their crimes. Since who they are is insignificant, they might as well have been referred to by gender and numeral ("Boy 1", "Girl 3"). They're meat for the beast and nothing more. While it's logical to expect at least one will withstand the ordeal, SEE NO EVIL lacks point of view and a rooting interest in the survival of any of the teenagers. The narrative tactic makes it more difficult to guess the pecking order for death, but with no vested interest in any of the characters, the urgency of their plight evaporates. Even though the appeal of SEE NO EVIL is to witness gruesome acts, the audience has nothing to fear, just a bunch of butchery to observe, without an on-screen surrogate. The characters don't seem all that frightened either. Upon entering a room with bloody hundreds glued to the wall, one teen marvels at all the money, overlooking that it's caked in blood and, oh yeah, there's a table with jars of eyeballs in there too.

As a way of extending the WWE brand, SEE NO EVIL seems like an lackluster way of doing so. Kane's anti-hero is the strong, silent type who displays zero personality. The film's grimy look and violence and the killer's abusive, fundamentalist religion-based backstory are cribbed from several other lousy movies. The main thing, though, is that it isn't scary in the least. It lacks even the cheap jump moments accompanied by musical stingers. There's no sense of dread other than realizing the time and money wasted to see this shoddy film.

Grade: F

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