Halloween Scene: See No Evil 2 (2014)

see no evil 2A decade ago, a bunch of friends and I went to see See No Evil at the theater at the Palisades. We all worked at Wizard together and liked horror movies so it seemed like a good idea. My memory tells me it wasn’t. Not that it was a terrible movie, just that it wasn’t very good. A bunch of kids running around an abandoned hotel they were cleaning up for some kind of rehab program only to run into a slasher played by wrestler Kane. It became a joke with us when it came to picking movies, but was eventually replaced by the terrible When A Stranger Calls remake (which we saw on my birthday) as a new low not long after.

I’m glad I watched that movie, though. I’m sure we had a good time and probably didn’t really have anything better to do that night, but it also made me look twice when I saw See No Evil 2 appear on Amazon Prime. That second glance lead to a click which informed me that the film not only starred the delightful Danielle Harris — a horror icon with a lifetime of experience going back to Halloween 4 and 5 — but was also directed by the Soska Sisters who made the still-gives-me-the-willies American Mary. That trumped less than great memories and my general disinterest when it comes to WWE projects.

So, a decade after seeing and not particularly enjoying the first installment in the franchise, I gave the sequel a watch on my Kindle. It’s far from the best way to watch a movie, but I was impressed with how good it looked. I also thought that the closeness of the screen and the headphones made the whole experience feel even more confined, which added to the ambiance. But even without all that I think I still would have walked away singing this film’s praises.

Much like Halloween 2, this one kicks off right after the events of the first one and picks up in a hospital where Kane’s Jacob Goodnight is eventually taken to. But before he starts getting his stab on, we meet morgue employees Amy (Harris), Seth (Kaj-Erik Eriksen) and Holden (Michael Eklund). It’s Amy’s birthday, but once news come across that Goodnight and his victim’s are coming in, she cancels her plans with her friends and says she’ll stick around. Her friends — including her brother who looks like Thor, Tamara played by American Mary star Katharine Isabelle, her boyfriend and a girl with a crush on Thor — pop up with a nice little surprise party for her and her co-workers. As you might expect, Jacob wakes up and starts making short work of the gang.

There’s a lot of relationship/lust elements at work to go along with the non horror moments which adds some character stuff without getting too complicated. All in all SNE2 is a great, straightforward little slasher movie with just the right amount of gore and characters you don’t want to see iced too quickly. And it’s even got a fun little ending, even though I thought they telegraphed a part of it a bit to obviously, that sets this up as a potential franchise that I could definitely get behind, especially if WWE and Lionsgate continue giving great directors like the Soska sisters a chance to do their thing with moderately backed projects like this.

So, if you’re looking for a modern slasher with a nice mix of masked killer, solid cast and mostly believable moments (there are a few kill cheats, but I’ve already forgotten most of them) then give See No Evil 2 a watch. I had such a good time, I’m willing to go back and give the first one another look. Maybe I’ll like it more now.

Halloween Scene: American Mary (2012)

american mary

In my new horror movie roundup post, I mentioned watching American Mary. Here’s the review I originally wrote back in September when the weather was still super warm!

Even though I’m still wearing shorts and T-shirts when I head out of the house, I’m ready for the cool fall crispness and the spookiness that ensues! With that in mind, I started combing Netflix Instant’s listings, adding a lot of movies from the past few years that I’ve heard things about.

American Mary, written and directed by Jen and Sylvia Soska, definitely fits in that category. It’s about a young woman named Mary (Katharine Isabelle of Ginger Snaps and Freddy Vs. Jason fame!) who just wants to be a surgeon, but a lack of money leads her into a world where she fixes up people for a local bar owner and does some pretty intense body modifications.

I was all over the map with this one. At first I wasn’t sure if it even counted as a horror movie or was more in line with a medical-based psychological thriller populated with all kinds of crazy, unique and deranged characters. That question soon got thrown out the window. From there, I had problems with the sexual assault of Mary by one of her teachers because it felt like a cheap, overly easy way of getting her to fully embrace the life she’d only brushed up against up to that point. Even that came back around in a way that showed Mary’s progression (or possibly regression) as a character, though so it at least worked with the story being told in a way.

One of the things this movie does particularly well is show people from various facets. American Mary is filled with all kinds of different people, many of them incredibly awful, and yet there are times where you feel bad for even the worst of them. Isabelle does a lot of this as the title character as she goes from struggling med student to full-on murderer. But, even as she goes through her downward spiral, she has moments where you can see her examining her life and how she got to where she’s at.

Some of those smaller moments might make the movie feel a bit slow — which it is at times — but at the end of the day, I feel like American Mary is put together in such a way that you’re not just seeing the lead character’s quick descent into madness or whathaveyou, but instead many of the steps that got her there as well as what they mean to her. This descent is handled realistically in that it covers so many of the emotional bases, even while being set in a dark, dangerous world that feels alien at times.

Be warned though, this is a DARK movie. I mentioned the sexual assault above. That’s an incredibly disturbing scene. So is what it leads to. There’s a lot of body modifications that move past the tongue-splits, devil horns and gauged ears and easily move into body horror. But, it certainly made me go on plenty of ups and downs as I watched, which is not something I can say for a lot of movies. In that regard it was a good viewing experience, but one I’m not likely to repeat.