A group of friends pays a late-night visit to the city morgue to surprise Amy (Harris) on her birthday. But the surprise is on them when the one-eyed corpse of brutal psychopath Jacob Goodnight (Jacobs) unexpectedly rises from a cold sub-basement slab. Their wild party quickly turns into a terrifying slay-fest as the sadistic mass-murderer resumes his savage rampage complete with hooks, surgical knives and power saws.
See No Evil 2 continues the story of Jacob Goodnight, an abused child turned hulking beast turned mass murderer. The slasher sequel from WWE Studios and the Soska Sisters (Jen Soska, Syliva Soska) picks up where the original left off following Amy (Danielle Harris), Seth (Kaj-Erik Eriksen) and Holden (Michael Eklund) working at the local city morgue the night of the horrific events of See No Evil as they receive the bodies of victims of the murder spree, including the killer as well, the Jacob Goodnight. The film is a strong modern entry into the slasher sub-genre even if it feels a bit watered down, pulling its punches for an intended wider audience. It certainly is no where near as visceral as the Soska Sister’s previous effort, American Mary. WWE fans will likely get more out of See No Evil 2 than those unaware of Kane, his history and presence. There is a charm to the film due to the directors and their cast, especially Danielle Harris, Kay-Erik Eriksen and Katherine Isabelle, the latter may have turned in the best supporting character of any film this year. Confined to the city morgue over a single night, the script lays out the action more as a vicious game of cat and mouse than a typical slasher effort. It has strong shades of Halloween II, the original from 1981, not the Rob Zombie joint from a decade back. The film works on an lite Halloween fare entertainment level, it is a riot in many ways with its quick pace, confident direction and exceptional casting; but, it may leave hard core horror fans a little unsatisfied desiring more gore, punch and intense suspense.
The script for See No Evil 2 sets up the dynamic between Amy (Danielle Harris) and Seth (Kaj-Erik Eriksen) quickly, efficiently, establishing their jobs at the city morgue and the events that lead to Jacob Goodnight and his victims being transported to their location. While the relationship between Amy and the lovelorn Seth is overly familiar, it is handled well enough and plays out better as the film continues once Jacob arrives. The payoff near the conclusion make it all worth the while. The film sets up Amy as its lead character with her preparing to clock out for the night and meet her friends for her own birthday party. The chemistry between Amy, Seth and their boss Holden (Michael Eklund) is entertaining and authentic making Amy’s decision to stay to assist with the wave of work coming in unexpectedly seems entirely natural, almost admirable. But what about that party? The film kicks into high gear when Amy’s friends, Tamara (Katherine Isabelle), Will (Greyston Holt), Kayla (Chelan Simmons) and Carter (Lee Majdoub), arrive to surprise Amy with her party after all. Once Jacob Goodnight is resurrected, the stage is set for a series of fun set pieces, a few surprises and Katherine Isabelle to steal the show.
The Twisted Twins, Jen and Sylvia Soska, are fast rising stars in horror with their love for the genre and their fan favorite independent films, Dead Hooker in a Trunk and American Mary. They are also self-professed fans of the Wrestling community. The union between WWE and the Soska Sisters is a no-brainer and it shows in the tone and pacing of See No Evil 2, their first film for WWE – they are already hard at work on their second WWE effort. Their confidence is instantly apparent from open credits as they establish the location and characters in classic Eighties fashion but with a sense of fun and humor that is greatly appreciated. Combined with the expert cinematography from Mahlon Todd Williams, the film looks fantastic, brightly lite when necessary, dark and ominous when appropriate. As with any Soska Sisters film, it is the unexpected that jumps in to elevate their films, even here in See No Evil 2, which is by far their most accessible film to date.
With American Mary, the Soska Sisters establish themselves as a leading female voice in horror films as well as handling female characters in their films. It is no different in See No Evil 2, even though the title character is a masculine as you can imagine. Casting Danielle Harris and Katherine Isabelle in the lead and a key supporting role is terrific, well orchestrated horror additions to the film. Danielle Harris is a scream queen favorite growing out of her early role in the original Halloween films (and again in Rob Zombie’s Halloween films) into a gifted, talented and adored actress today. Amy may be her best role this side of Belle in Stake Land. She effortlessly proves and displays why the horror community loves her so much, she slides quickly and comfortably into the role of Amy making her instantly endearing and charming. Her chemistry with Kay-Erik Eriksen is natural and authentic as well.
Of all the cast, however, Katherine Isabelle makes the strongest impression as the hilarious and raucous Tamara. Katherine is riding a strong string of incredible and effective roles from the lead in the Soska Sister’s previous film, American Mary, to her amazing and challenging role as Margo Verger in the Hannibal TV show. The fascinating thing about Isabelle in See No Evil 2 is that Tamara is nothing like Mary Mason and neither of those roles are anything near what she did as Margo Verger. What she brings to Tamara is an unadulterated glee that permeates See No Evil 2 from the instant she is introduced. By the time she encounters Jacob Goodnight for the first time, she literally, single-handedly, shifts the tone and enjoyment of the film. The way she explains that Goodnight is still alive will be something that defines this film over time. Her performance is the type of presence that encourages multiple viewings, praise and cult following. It is that good.
Kane, Glenn Thomas Jacobs, a celebrated WWE wrestler, reprises his role as Jacob Goodnight. His size and stature ensure Goodnight is imposing and, at times, frightening. He brings a power and ferocity to the role, at least in the constraints of the See No Evil 2 story. Again, the more the audience is a fan of WWE and Kane, the more his role will appeal and reward. Unfortunately, Goodnight is weakest element of See No Evil 2. This is mostly due to the poor dialog given to the character and the underwhelming addition to his wardrobe that apes Jason Voorhees a little too much. It wants to be an equivalent to Jason’s hockey mask. It is not. Kane and the Soska Sisters make the most of Jacob Goodnight when he is lumbering down the hallways or skulking around the room where the heroes are hiding in fear. His best scenes are when he is face to face with Amy (Harris) with a thick pane glass window separating them or, more oddly, when Tamara (Isabelle) first encounters Goodnight on the morgue slab where it is what he may do at anytime that unnerves the senses.
See No Evil 2 is the perfect slasher film for its target audience, fans of WWE. It is also a great film for fans of the Soska Sisters. It is also a terrific watch for fans of Danielle Harris and Katherine Isabelle. However, for many hard core horror fans, the watered down approach to the menace of Jacob Goodnight’s reign of terror may not suffice making the film where the parts are stronger than the film itself. The film is a Halloween treat and a blast under most circumstances. It is not destined to change the face of horror or have the impact of Jen and Sylvia Soska’s sophomore effort, American Mary. However, it is likely that many fans will remember the film for Katherine Isabelle’s performance more than anything else. See No Evil 2 is successful in entertaining its audience, reinforcing that the Soska Sisters will forge the future of horror and that the WWE is growing as a film company.
3 out of 5