Are there a pair of directors more polarizing in horror right now than the Soska sisters? It often feels like reviews of their work are only tangentially concerned with the finished film and more interested in either defending of discrediting the unique brand of self promotion the twin sisters have carved out for themselves within the horror community.
While I'm not as ardent a defender as most in the Twisted Army, I've yet to be disappointed by their output. If American Mary meandered plot wise in its third act, it still made for a compelling character study and delivered a wonderful ode to the body horror films of Cronenberg. While following up that independent cult movie with a sequel to the critically reviled WWE slasher vehicle See No Evil seemed an odd choice, I was more interested to see what kind of flair the pair could bring to a script not authored by themselves.
It turns out that See No Evil 2 is one of the more pleasant surprises of the straight to video horror releases this season. While it certainly doesn't reinvent the wheel when it comes to slasher films, some inspired casting choices allow the film to sidestep one of the biggest pitfalls in contemporary horror. The cast of victims lined up to meet their bloody demise at the hands of Jacob Goodnight are by and large easy to like and relate to, making for the increasing rare occurrence where I'm rooting for their safe escape, rather than hoping our antagonist finds a way to strap them gut-chewing, bone-spitting assembly line that makes quick work of the lot of them moments after their introduction.
This is due in large part to the continued pairing of Katharine Isabelle with the Soskas. Here she delivers a performance 180 degrees removed from the taciturn Mary Mason. Her Tamara is hard partying, oversexed serial killer obsessive, and it's a role that allows Isabelle to tap into her comedic side. She's joined by the always welcome Danielle Harris and Kaj-Erik Everson as Amy and Seth, a pair of morgue workers on duty to deal with the recovered body of Goodnight. The pair share decent chemistry in their “will they or won't they” back and forth, and let's face it, it's not all that difficult to develop a bit of a crush on Ms. Harris.
See No Evil 2 takes places in the immediate aftermath of the first film, and the action is confined to the singular location of the morgue. Harris is just about to sign out and enjoy her birthday celebration with friends when Goodnight's corpse and handiwork arrive for their postmortem. When Amy's friends decide to bring the party to her, Goodnight proves to be not so dead after all.
The Soskas bring an edge to the film that's missing in many slasher films nowadays. Whereas many almost prefer the camera to cutaway at the moment of impact, this contains some gleeful and sadistic kill scenes. While there have been a number of wheelchair bound victims in horror films before, I don't think there's been an instance where a paraplegic (Michael Eklund) attempts to crawl away, only to discover his dead legs have been further immobilized by a giant hook buried to the hilt in his calf. There's a physicality to the film and its killer that's often lacking. We can attribute this to the hulking form of the WWE's Kane/Glen Jacobs as the returning villain. Standing close to seven feet tall and weighing a chiseled three hundred pounds, Jacobs has both the ability to manhandle his diminutive counterparts, or to make the near endless supply of medical instruments at his disposal (something hinted at in the excellent opening credits sequence) that much more lethal.*
Overall, See No Evil 2 is a marked improvement over the first installment. While I'd rather see the Soskas move on to bigger things (the announced Painkiller Jane looks like a promising opportunity for a gonzo, ultra violent superhero film), if there is a followup, they've left it in good shape. Fun, loose and filled with crowd pleasing kills, See No Evil 2 Is everything you would want in a modern slasher.
*When the next inevitable installment of the Friday the 13th series is ready to go, if Derek Mears doesn't return to don the goalie mask, they give Jacobs serious consideration.