See No Evil 2 (2014)

See No Evil 2 posterIn 2006 the slasher film SEE NO EVIL produced by WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) and distributed by Lionsgate hit screens in the U.S. On an estimated budget of $8mil, the film opened to a meager $4.5mil and went onto to earn a worldwide gross of around $18.5mil. Not exactly a Cinderella story, but not a failure either. Obviously WWE thought that was good enough to warrant a follow up, SEE NO EVIL 2, eight years later. The original film was nothing special as far as slasher films go. In it a killer, Jacob Goodnight (Glenn “Kane” Jacobs), who is abused as a young kid by an overly religious zealot of a mother (Nancy Bell), decides he is God’s little helper to rid the world of sinners. He proceeds to take his fury out on a group of delinquents sentenced to cleaning up an old building. Overall the movie was pretty forgettable. The cast is unimpressive, the director was unimpressive, and the writing offered the standard fare of slasher cliches. But it had two elements going for it. Firstly; it had good energy. It didn’t take itself too seriously and the story moved along at a nice pace. Secondly, it had great gore!! Kane killed the twenty-somethings in creative, bloody ways and this was SEE NO EVIL’s only saving grave. Since the producers had eight years to think about it, I’m sure SEE NO EVIL 2 corrected all the sins of its predecessor to deliver a better product. Right?

See No Evil 2 1I’d like to say that happened, I really would. Unfortunately SEE NO EVIL 2 is more stale and formulaic than the original and it lacks the energy and gore that made the original one moderately fun. So what the hell happened?

SEE NO EVIL 2 begins like many horror sequels of yesteryear … with the “dead” body of the killer being delivered to the morgue. Working the nightshift is Seth (Kaj-Erik Eriksen) and Amy (Danielle Harris). Amy is the sweet girl who is always cheery, always helpful, and not a big partier. In other words, she’s the “Final Girl.” This night also happens to be Amy’s birthday but when dead bodies start pouring into the morgue, Amy decides to stay late and help out Seth. The dead bodies are the victims of the first SEE NO EVIL and I liked how this one picks up right where the second one left off. But wow the writing is lazy!! Amy’s friends weren’t happy that she couldn’t go to her own party so they brought the party to her. That’s right, they’re partying in the same morgue where the “corpse” of serial killer Jacob Goodnight is resting. Holden (Michael Eklund), the nighttime morgue supervisor, okay’s the party. Which again is in the morgue. The city morgue. uh, okay. What is this, 1985?

When the cast looks bored in the movie you know you're in trouble!!
When the cast looks bored in the movie you know you’re in trouble!!

Amy’s friends are more dull than listening to thirty minutes of Jerry Seinfeld’s stand-up routine. There’s Amy’s older brother Will (Greyston Holt), Amy’s best friend Tamara (Katharine Isabelle), Tamara’s boyfriend Carter (Lee Majdoub), and the vapid blonde Kayla (Chelon Simmons), who has a crush on Will and seems to only be in the cast to fill the role of the “dumb blonde.” These supporting cast members are, simply put, awful. Their acting is wooden and their dialogue is laughable and cringe0-inducing. Now I know what you’re going to say: “But surely Katharine Isabelle is the standout actor among them all.” You couldn’t be more wrong!! The Soska Sisters directed the 2012 film AMERICAN MARY, which made my “worst of” list of that year, which starred Katharine Isabelle. In that review I noted that Isabelle was completely out of her league and was unable to carry that film as it’s lead. So I was happy to see that Isabelle took a supporting role in SEE NO EVIL 2. Except her performance here is one of the worst performances I’ve seen this year. She is truly awful and brings the entire film to a grinding halt whenever she appears on screen. It was one of those performances where as the viewer you actually get embarrassed for her. Yikes!! In her defense, Isabelle didn’t have much to work with as far as her character went. “Tamara” is a horribly conceived and fleshed out character. Tamara loves death and dead bodies and when she finds out that Jacob Goodnight’s body is in the morgue she drags her boyfriend to check it out. First she gets half naked, straddles Jacob’s dead body, and then kisses him. Then she gets horny so she and Carter have sex next to it which disturbs old Jacob and proceeds to wake him up. That is pretty much the extent of Tamara’s character arc!! It’ll be no surprise that she’s one of the first victims of Jacob and she has an onscreen death scene that makes William Shatner look like Sir Laurence Olivier!!

Yes ... that's Katharine Isabelle straddling & making out with a corpse!!
Yes … that’s Katharine Isabelle straddling & making out with a corpse!!

After Jacob wakes up, the writer really kicks it into “standard slasher fare” gear. Jacob chases them around the morgue killing them one by one. In the first film, Jacob was sans a mask, but writers Nathan Brookes and Bobby Lee Darby wanted to make sure they hit every slasher cliche and they have Jacob wear a mask … which he proceeds to remove for no reason!! The gore is largely done off screen so we don’t even get that element. There’s a couple decent kills but the majority of them are pretty boring and uncreative. I think the writers originally wanted SEE NO EVIL 2 to be set in the woods and there must have been a last minute change. Why? How else can you explain why the hallways of the city morgue are so dark and foggy?? And you’re going to tell me that out of this group of twenty-somethings, not one of them has a cell phone? The script is full of noticeable holes due to lazy writing. And speaking of “lazy,” even Danielle Harris looks extremely bored as she goes through the motions of being chased around by yet another masked killer.

It's good to have choices!!
It’s good to have choices!!

But perhaps most disappointing of all is the directing. There’s absolutely no energy in this film. The Soska Sisters exploded onto the scene back in 2009 with the indie micro-budget film, DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK. That film was funny, bloody, action-packed, and energetic. They followed that up with the horrible AMERICAN MARY, a completely forgettable entry in the horror anthology, THE ABCs OF DEATH 2 (“T is for Torture Porn”), and now SEE NO EVIL 2. What they hell are these sisters doing to their career? They’re either making terrible career choices or else DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK was a fluke. There’s nothing notable as far as the directing goes. Any schmuck could’ve directed this film; it’s so generic!! As the opening credits rolled and the “Directed by” the Soska’s filled the screen, the twins made a cameo as two dead bodies on slabs in the morgue. Unfortunately that’s exactly how they directed SEE NO EVIL 2. It’s lifeless and boring. Skip this one!!

See No Evil 2 99My Summary:

Directors: the Soska Sisters

Plot: 1 out of 5 stars

Gore: 4.5 out of 10 skulls

Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains

Reviewed by Scott Shoyer

Stay Bloody!!!

I can't stress enough how stupid Katharine Isabelle's character was!!
I can’t stress enough how stupid Katharine Isabelle’s character was!!
Isabelle's entire role here was to get half naked & tongue-fuck a corpse!!
Isabelle’s entire role here was to get half naked & tongue-fuck a corpse!!

2 New One-Sheets Drop for Errors of the Human Body

Errors of the Human Body poster1As we still wait for IFC Midnight to release the indie horror-thriller, ERRORS OF THE HUMAN BODY, a few one-sheets have dropped for the medical horror flick that I’m hoping has more than one foot in Cronenbergian territory.  ERRORS OF THE HUMAN BODY is directed by Eron Sheean, written by Sheean and Shane Danielsen, and stars Michael Eklund, Karoline Herfurth, Tómas Lemarquis, Rik Mayall, and Caroline Gerdolle.  Check out the press release that accompanied the two one-sheets (it includes the plot crunch):

IFC Midnight has acquired all North American rights to Eron Sheean’s thriller ERRORS OF THE HUMAN BODY. Sheean wrote the screenplay for the film with Shane Danielsen. The picture stars Germany’s Karoline Herfurth (PERFUME: THE STORY OF A MURDERER, THE READER, WE ARE THE NIGHT), Iceland’s Tómas Lemarquis (NOI THE ALBINO, PAINLESS, SNOW PIERCER), Rik Mayall (THE YOUNG ONES), and Canada’s rising star Michael Eklund (THE DIVIDE, THE DAY, FRINGE, ALCATRAZ) and was produced by Instinctive Film’s Darryn Welch and Cole Payne.

Following a divorce from his wife and the loss of his son to a rare genetic mutation, Canadian geneticist Geoff Burton (Elkund) relocates to the harsh, wintry scenery of Dresden, Germany, to work on a groundbreaking new project that might just be his key to redemption. When teamed up with his former intern and colleague Rebekka (Herfurth), he starts working on a human regenerative gene with direct ties to his personal tragedy; yet, matters prove increasingly difficult: Jealous co-workers’ feelings are ruffled, old flames are rekindled, and personal demons become consistently harder to suppress in this Errors of the Human Body poster2new and oppressive work environment.

Still haunted by the memory of his wife and his failures to save his deceased son, Burton finds himself maddeningly close to a medical breakthrough, yet quickly spiraling out of control. Collapsing his career and personal life into a dark and increasingly dangerous tunnel-vision of competitive genetics, delusions of all kinds, and the terrifying potential of massive discoveries gone awry, Burton is quite literally the stranger in the strange land. The question remains: How far will Burton be willing to go to atone for the errors of his past?

See what I mean about there being a potential for some Cronenbergian-inspired madness!!  Here’s the trailer:

What do you think (be sure to click on the one-sheets to see a larger, clearer size)?

Stay Bloody!!!

IFC Midnight Picks up Errors of the Human Body for Distribution

More news on the distribution of Eron Sheean’s ERRORS OF THE HUMAN BODY. IFC Midnight has picked up the indie thriller for distribution. Check out the press release for more details:

IFC Midnight announced today that the company is acquiring all North American rights to Eron Sheean’s thriller ERRORS OF THE HUMAN BODY. Sheean wrote the screenplay for the film with Shane Danielsen. The picture stars Germany’s Karoline Herfurth (PERFUME: THE STORY OF A MURDERER, THE READER, WE ARE THE NIGHT), Iceland’s Tómas Lemarquis (NOI THE ALBINO, PAINLESS, SNOW PIERCER), Rik Mayall (THE YOUNG ONES) and Canada’s rising star, Michael Eklund (THE DIVIDE, THE DAY, FRINGE, ALCATRAZ) and wasproduced by Instinctive Film’s Darryn Welch and Cole Payne. The film played this summer at several international film festivals, including Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal, Melbourne International Film Festival, Frightfest London and Transatlantyk International Film & Music Festival and will play at the upcoming Fantastic Fest and Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival. ERRORS OF THE HUMAN BODY will make its US premiere next week at Fantastic Fest 2012.

Following divorce from his wife and the loss of his son to a rare genetic mutation, Canadian geneticist Geoff Burton (Elkund) relocates to the harsh,wintry scenery of Dresden, Germany to work on groundbreaking new project that might just be his key to redemption in ERRORS OF THE HUMAN BODY. When teamed up with his former intern and colleague Rebekka (Herfurth), he starts working on a human regenerative gene with direct ties to his personal tragedy, yet matters prove increasingly difficult: jealous co-workers’ feelings are ruffled, old flames are rekindled and personal demons become consistently harder to suppress in this new and oppressive work environment. Still haunted by the memory of his wife and his failures to have saved his deceased son, Burton finds himself maddeningly close to a medical breakthrough, yet quickly spiralling out of control. Collapsing his career and personal life into a dark and increasingly dangerous tunnel-vision of competitive genetics, delusions of all kinds and the terrifying potential of massive discoveries gone awry, Burton is quite literally the stranger in the strange land. The question remains: how far will Burton be willing to go to atone for the errors of his past?

The deal for the film was negotiated by Jeff Deutchman, Director of Acquisitions & Productions for Sundance Selects/IFC Films with Nate Bolotin at XYZFilms on behalf of the filmmakers.

ERRORS OF THE HUMAN BODY is directed by Eron Sheean, written by Sheean and Shane Danielsen, and stars Michael Eklund, Karoline Herfurth, Rik Mayall, Caroline Gerdolle, and Tómas Lemarquis. Now check out the trailer:

Stay Bloody!!!

THE DIVIDE (2011)

As far back as I could remember, I always wanted to be a survivor. And I’m not talking about surviving some reality show. I mean surviving when everyone else was dead. Surviving the End of the World.

My favourite movie from a very young age was Charlton Heston’s THE OMEGA MAN. I imagined myself as the Last Man on Earth, and in the summer days I would wake up at the crack of dawn and go bicycling in my neighbourhood, prowling through the city streets pretending I was foraging for supplies and avoiding albino mutants. I suppose it’s a modern extension of the old Robinson Crusoe fantasy: being free to act as I wanted, but having access to all the modern conveniences – and without having to pay for them.

I devoured movies like MAD MAX and its thousand bastard Italian and Filipino offspring, as well as DAMNATION ALLEY, LOGAN’S RUN, and many others. I was also aware of the more serious ones that emerged in the early 80s: THE DAY AFTER, THREADS, TESTAMENT. They captured the apocalyptic zeitgeist of the 80s, during the last cusp of the Red Scare with the accompanying threat of Doomsday, and they did it without a gas-scavenging punk-haired mutant in sight. They were serious, and realistic, and they had messages to impart to the audience. I understood that, even if I wasn’t mature enough at the time to properly appreciate it.

Michael Biehn as Mickey in THE DIVIDE

In the years since those turbulent times, the nuclear threat has lessened if not gone away entirely, replaced by environmental, political, cosmic, technological and societal threats. But I think my generation might never get that image of the mushroom cloud out of our heads, or forget what it represents. But I still enjoy watching post-apocalyptic films, both the entertaining ones and the ones that had messages.

I didn’t enjoy watching Xavier Gens’ THE DIVIDE.

The gathering survivors

It opens powerfully, with panicked New Yorkers looking out their windows in abject horror at the sight of multiple nuclear explosions ripping their city apart; this is a scene that wastes no time, and convincingly paints a picture of immediate panic and imminent perdition. Immersed in utter chaos, the residents of one tenement building scramble down the stairs as their home crumbles around them, several residents making their way into their building’s fallout shelter. Their superintendent, survivalist-driven Mickey (Michael Biehn, ALIENS, TERMINATOR) reluctantly allows them in before sealing the door shut to the outside world. He’s been ready for this all along, but with the unwanted additions to his shelter, he makes an effort to ensure they know he’s boss and to stay out of his private room.

Lauren German (Eva) in THE DIVIDE

Eva (Lauren German, DARK COUNTRY) and her passive partner Sam (Ivan Gonzalez) make an effort to make the best of things, as does Marilyn (Rosanna Arquette, TRUE ROMANCE) and her young daughter Wendi (Abbey Thickson). But Mickey’s attitude grates on Designated Assholes Bobby (Michael Eklund, HUNT TO KILL), Josh (Milo Ventimiglia, who played Peter Petrelli in TV’s HEROES) and Delvin (Courtney B Vance, LAW AND ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT). Life in the shelter is hard, activities are few and far between, food is rationed, and the toilet is a simple hole over a reeking septic tank. Mickey proves to be irritating, even aggressive at times, though his preparedness makes him right in most of the arguments, such as when he prevents Josh and Bobby from breaking the seal around the door and letting in the contaminated air.

This is how the world ends …

The door seal gets broken anyway – from without. A squad of armed men in white hazmat suits invade the shelter, none of them identifying themselves. In the struggle with the survivors, some of them get killed, but they still succeed in abducting Wendi. Josh volunteers to go out in one of the dead soldier’s hazmat suits to find out what is happening, and in his infiltration, he discovers a network of isolation tunnels and labs set up in the streets, where Wendi and other children, presumably taken from other survival places, are being experimented upon. Josh is discovered, and is exposed to the contaminated air before escaping back to the shelter, where the soldiers weld the door shut and trap them inside.

Knock knock …

More time passes, and tempers and sanity fray among the survivors. Eva’s relationship with Sam fractures, Josh begins to suffer the effects of exposure to the outside air. Marilyn told that her daughter is dead, escapes into insanity and an abusive relationship with Bobby, who’s out to become the next Alpha Male of the group. And his chance comes when Delvin discovers Mickey has been keeping supplies to himself, is killed in the consequent fight, and Bobby and Josh take over, torturing Mickey and threatening to plummet them all into chaos…

Firstly, the positives. The acting is commendable all around, particularly from Lauren German as the everywoman Eva, trying to maintain a sense of civility and decorum as all around her physically as well as metaphorically crumbles and rots, and Michael Biehn as the paranoid, emotionally damaged Mickey, able to be both sympathetic and unsympathetic at once. Xavier Gens takes the cramped, claustrophobic settings he created in FRONTIER(S) and exploits them to the fullest here (as well as working very successfully on a limited budget). The sets looks very realistic, and you can almost feel the grime and smell the decay as the characters spend more and more time down there (the movie was shot in chronological order, and a nutritionist was hired to put the actors on a strict diet to simulate starvation). And those few external shots looked incredibly real.

This is going to get messy!!

But there were a number of negatives about this film which for me overwhelmed the positives. The whole subplot about the hazmat soldiers taking the children comes and goes without explanation or exposition. Who were they? What were they doing? Were they the government, the UN, terrorists? Why take the children and not the adults? The level of organisation they displayed following a disaster of this apparent magnitude made me expect a twist at the end where it was all some insane social experiment being carried out. But no, their inclusion seems to be there to give the characters some more weapons, a hazmat suit, some bodies to cut up and dump down the septic tank, and to remove the child from the picture. Which, given the subsequent events, is a small blessing.

Which leads me into an even bigger problem with THE DIVIDE for me. Gens presents us with some startling images that are almost poetic – but then seems content to let the film slide into a wallowing exercise of nihilistic cruelty. We witness physical and emotional abuse, rape, torture (though somehow we’re spared witnessing the numerous bodies actually being dismembered with an axe), and while I’ve seen more far more visually explicit images in other films, the tone of THE DIVIDE made what we saw feel so much worse. It was exploitative, but unlike other movies, there was no relief about what is seen here, no hope. There is a pervading sense of despair throughout, and as the characters succumb to their darkest sides, I wondered why they even bother remaining alive. No one talks of rebuilding society, or finding family, or of helping each other. They appear little better than talking animals, and if I were there, I would not want to survive.

We seriously are not gonna get an explanation for this!!

And therein lies my biggest gripe with the movie: its message. Throughout the ordeal, the characters descend into madness, brutality, degradation, and writers Karl Mueller and Eron Sheean have taken a few pages out of LORD OF THE FLIES to present us with the notion that stripped of societal constraints, people will descend into savagery. Not even Eva, the character most likely to be the film’s conscience or moral compass, is immune (I won’t detail any more, for fear of spoilers, but I was both appalled and disappointed by her ultimate actions). The writers treat this as a Major Truth.

It’s not.

It’s all too easy to adopt a cynical attitude about humanity, to think that a selfish, murderous beast lies just beneath our civilised skins and clothes, and all we need is the opportunity. Sure, there will always be opportunists, and people who will crack under pressure. But for every story you hear or read about looters following a disaster, there are also stories of people offering aid, shelter, rescue to folk they don’t even know (of course, the negative stories will always get the headlines). For every war profiteer, there are more willing to lay down their lives for another, with no thought of reward.

Maybe I’m taking this far too seriously. Maybe it’s just the timing; my daughter is seventeen, about to become an adult and enter a wider world. There’s room in this world for a movie with a grim, nihilistic message, I suppose – but I couldn’t see myself watching this again, or recommending it to anyone else. I was much more pessimistic when I was younger, but now I believe that people have more sense of community and compassion than a movie like this would have us believe, and that this capacity is as ingrained and as a strong as our capacity for survival. They are better than you might think from watching this.

THE DIVIDE is out on DVD. Check out the trailer here.

Deggsy’s Summary:

Director: Xavier Gens

Plot: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Gore: 5 out of 10 skulls

Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains

Reviewed by Derek “Deggsy” O’Brien