Sunday, November 6, 2011

See No Eye Scream

Much like office settings or Halloween, it often shocks me to realize how little the seemingly natural marriage of professional wrestling and horror cinema occurs. There's a built-in fan-base eager for the crossover, big burly men that make perfect villains or believable foes, merchandising opportunities from restaurants to Barbie's boyfriends, and the added convenience of getting actors/stunt men/fight choreographers at one relatively low price.
For these reasons, I’m sure today’s Doll’s House special was heralded as a brilliant idea back in 2006. Take a successful human franchise (in this case, WWE star Kane), give him a dark backstory and killing gimmick (eyeball plucking), toss in some pretty and/or annoying victims (all with vaguely disguised Australian accents) dirty up a pristine warehouse, turn on your computer, insert CGI effects and metal music, and BAM! Movie!
Quick Plot: A pair of beat cops enter a dingy home to discover an eyeless woman screaming for help. Because "there's NO TIME!" to call for backup, one of them gets axed, while the other gets his arm axed but also manages to blow a hole in the axist's head. I call that an even trade.
Flash forward four years, where the one-armed axee is now peeing in a toilet bowl (the movie thinks this is important, so I'm passing it on) and working as a mentor to troubled youths. On this sunny weekend during which the film takes place, mentoring troubled youths means busing a batch of attractive juvenile delinquents to an abandoned hotel, where they're assigned to clean the place up in order to transform it into a homeless shelter. On hand to help is a creepy old lady whose creepiness means nothing at all, right?

Eh, who needs to suspect anything about the creepy old lady when it's coed juvenile delinquent party time! You think I'm kidding, don't you? 
Nah-uhhhhh. When you’ve got a “tofu-munching ass” lab dog liberator, a blond brat just asking to have her own cell phone stuffed down her throat, a money obsessed fast-talker with his Seventh Deadly Sin practically tattooed on his dollar bill eyeballs, you know a creative killer will have fun. All the youngins--these plus a few bland more who barely register, except when dead--are introduced, in true lazy filmmaking form, with some superimposed text to explain their rap sheet. It’d be nice if these crimes--which range from assault to possession--actually built these kids as a force to be reckoned with. Sadly, much like the mark-missing Battle Royale II, the idea of teenage rebels never progresses beyond them giving dirty looks to authority figures. Really, they’re just a bunch of pretty twentysomethings playing mildly troubled high schoolers who deserve to have their eyes plucked out, if only for being dull.

And pluck they do! See, See No Evil--originally titled the much more hilarious Eye Scream Man--is about not seeing evil, and the best way to do that is pop out eyeballs. As a young boy, Kane--Jacob Goonight, but let’s just call him Kane, since the movie never says Jacob and the name ‘Jacob Goodnight’ is almost as stupid as the Eye Scream Man--was raised by a crazy Christian mom who would abuse him for doing such evil things as masturbating. Yes, we get to see that, though (sorry boys) no female nudity despite the fact this was directed by Gregory The Devil In Miss Jones Parts 3 to 5 Dark. As a result, Kane naturally grows up to pluck out people’s eyeballs. Unless they have religious tattoos. Then they’re cool. And worth masturbating to.

Because if there's one thing a film starring a WWE actor with a huge fanbase needs, it's an awkward masturbation scene. I think we can safely assume the lack of this explains why No Holds Barred was not the biggest blockbuster of 1989.

Or maybe not.
Debuting in 2006, See No Evil is a clear Lions Gate leftover born in the heyday of Saw, when seemingly all one needed to make a financially successful horror film was an artificially dingy house, fast editing, loud metal music, and a few gross-out scenes showing the after-violence carnage. Now I've spent many a day defending the Saw franchise as being a little more intelligent than most filmgoers estimate, but its ripoffs (I see you, Nine Dead and Are You Scared) are generally less justifiable. With See No Evil, it's quite clear that you had a studio crafting a project around a hopeful horror star but never stepping back to think about exactly what it was doing. Kane can obviously be a scary dude, but saddle him with a Leatherface-lite backstory whose biggest threat is a one-armed middle aged retired beat cop and it's hard to take him seriously. 

Then again, this is a professional wrestler who previously entered the ring as a Christmas tree and disgruntled dentist, so things could definitely have been worse.

High Points
The DVD for See No Evil is loaded with special features, but most importantly, it opens with a trailer for William Friedken’s incredibly disturbing and painfully underrated Bug. So that’s a good thing

I won’t spoil it here, but one of the first major death scenes offers a nice surprise
Low Points
I had absolutely no idea that Kane was anywhere near 7' tall while watching See No Evil. This in itself should tell you how skillful the film is at making a ready-made force of intimidation not scary in the least. 


Three survivors? THREE SURVIVORS? What is this, Resident Evil 2?
Lessons Learned
It’s perfectly acceptable for violent juvenile delinquents to carry razors and apparently, very expensive shampoo. On the other hand, it’s not acceptable at all for juvies to carry condoms because--wait, don’t we want our teenagers to know about and possibly carry condoms? I’m confused

When describing a killer to a cop, be sure to list his size, whether he has a chain, and if there's a hole inside of his head. Most law enforcement employees will nail that one on the first try
Accepting a marriage proposal is the first step towards having your eyeballs ripped out in an elevator
Kane’s Laws
Taser me once, shame on me. Taser me twice and I’ll crush you with a safe
IMDB Con of the Day
According to everyone’s most informative (but worst commented on) website, actor Steve Vidler was on 19 episodes of Jeopardy. Initially, I was impressed as I naturally would be with anyone who won 18 episodes of my favorite gameshow. Turns out Jeopardy without an exclamation point is just some British TV show called Jeopardy. What a bummer

Credits Curiosity
Following the incredible post-credits-tag (wherein a stray dog stops by to pee inside Kane's empty eye socket, and no, I didn't make that up), there was no way I was going to stop See No Evil until the final best boy had been acknowledged, just in case there was ANYTHING else to miss. As a result, I had the occasionally entertaining opportunity to observe some of the other people involved in making the film, including Art Department: Tim Allen. Now I’m sure—mostly—this had nothing to do with Tim the Tool Man Taylor, but don’t you dream that it did?

Award of Ubiquity
Also known as the 2009 Jude Law Jam or 2011 Jessica Chastain Takeover, this honor goes to actor Michael J. Pagan for appearing as "The Black Guy" in no less than three--this, Chain Letter, and House of Fears--films reviewed this fall here at the Doll's House. I'm not sure who in our relationship is stalking whom, but I'm pointing it out first, making me the not-creepy one

See No Evil is not a good or scary or so bad it's scarily good movie, but it's also not quite as atrocious as I was hoping expecting. Fans of mid-aught horror (there aren't many I know of) will find it perfectly passable, while trash connoisseurs will enjoy the scraps of camp (including the best credit capper ever). The DVD is almost embarrassingly loaded with extras, including two commentary tracks and a batch of mini-making of featurettes. Kane’s commentary (along with a producer) is oozing with manically enthusiastic tidbits, including compliments on some of the younger actors’ chokehold skills and a far less excitable comment about how they invited him out for beers but “That never happened...” This doesn’t come off as creepy or menacing--despite ANOTHER featurette where the younger actors were clearly instructed to pretend Kane was actually scary on set--but more awkward than anything else, like they gave him the wrong meetup address and then didn’t feel that bad about it the next day.

Oh well. At least the stray dog didn't chew off his testicles before peeing in his empty eye socket, as the script originally had planned. I'm sure Kane is thankful for that.


  1. Possibly the best thing to come out of "WWE Studios" so far (the less said about "The Condemmed" the better really) and with Kane as the big evil, it is a pretty easy sell and a hundred times better than anything were Hulk Hogan tried to act.
    I was actually pretty suprised to see the eyeball plucking, especially for such a mainstream movie, let alone a couple of the suprise deaths (usually involving dogs). Still seeing the rest of the output from "WWE Studios" with perhaps the exception of "12 rounds" I think it's safe to call this one a fluke.

  2. Aw, I actually don't hate The Condemned, perhaps because of the Vinnie Jones as a baddie thing or just that I'm a sucker for game show horror. Usually.

    The violence was pretty big for a studio film. I say it's indebted to Saw for being so successful as to blind the MPAA for a few years in that early 21st century!

  3. I have to say, I have fond memories of seeing SEE NO EVIL on the big screen. A second viewing might lower my opinion of it but at the time I thought it was a more than passable slasher pic. Given that it's only five years old, it's crazy how much SEE NO EVIL hails from such a different era. When it comes to the lifespan of genre trends, five years can be an eternity.

  4. It does have a nice sense of brutal that's rare for the big screen (and after revisiting H20, VERY welcome). I bet I would have REALLY liked it (with some irony) if I'd seen it in '06. I think that watching it today, it definitely feels ripped from Jigsaw's closet, which isn't the worst thing in the world except that it really does squander the potential for Kane. The dude could have been a great go-to guy for these kinds of Kane Hodder-ish roles, but this was just not the right project for him.

  5. My two main gripes with "The Condemmed" was the casual rape scene, followed by under using Nathan Jones, especially as he was so epic as the huge american wrestler in Jet Li's "Fearless". I'm also a fan of Game Show horror but this really wasn't no "Running Man"!

  6. NOTHING comes close to The Running Man. Few cinematic feats have ever achieved such perfection.

    I can totally understand your thoughts on the rape scene in The Condemned. It's definitely one of the meaner ones to show up on the big screen, and incredibly distasteful on a lot of levels. I guess I forgive The Condemned because it introduced me to Vinnie Jones and actually made him something scary, unlike the abominable Midnight Meat Train which offended me on totally different levels.

  7. Hey Emily, since you're a big Street Fighter fan, have you ever seen this clip from the animated series?
    Definitely strange and hilarious stuff!

  8. Now THAT'S the best way to start one's morning!