They say there is nothing worse than bad horror. While lame comedy and uninspired action strive for a similar stink bomb stature, the groan-inducing genre effort is supposedly the biggest cinematic abomination of all. But what about the just plain boring bits of dread? Where does that fit in the world of wasted opportunities and motion picture mediocrity? Isn't a routine scary movie just as awful as an inept one, providing the same sense of brain melting mediocrity and soul stealing stupidity? In the case of The Wailer II, the answer is a resounding "Yes". This incredibly crappy film, trying to get by on mood and its Mexican backdrop alone, is a true test of any fright fans patience and proclivities. Some may see it as subtle and suspenseful. But unless you believe that inert plotting and underdeveloped characters equal undeniable eeriness, you're better off watching paint dry - and such water-based pursuits would be far more chilling.
After learning from a psychic that his daughter may still be alive (she was supposedly a victim of the first Wailer outbreak), a grizzled old man heads to Mexico. There he hooks up with a day dreaming cabbie whose Uncle dreams of winning the local dominoes contest. Together they explore the legend of La Llorona, the demonic spirit of a dead woman whose crime against her children (she drowned them in deference to a lover) has cursed her restless soul to walk the earth. As this seductive ghoul kills various members of the local population, our duo get close to discovering her true identity - and even worse, who is controlling her murderous actions from beyond the grave.
The Wailer II should be subtitled The Waste of Time Too. It commits the biggest sin a scary movie can commandeer - it's a horror film that forgets to be frightening. So busy building local Mexican color and unnecessary mythos, that it constantly loses focus, director Paul Miller obviously believes that bloodshed, along with occasional stopovers at Sentimentality City, will carry his culturally correct dread. Clearly, he's a few frijoles short of a chimichonga. Atmosphere and tone are one thing - spending inordinately large amounts of time establishing one characters' love of dominos is another. The Wailer II fills its elephantine 90 minute running time with many moments like this - our desperate father trading quips with corrupt local police; our cab driving hero going psychic while visiting a celebrated shaman; drunk dudes rubbing up against a spectral demon; long walks by a river that end up producing nothing but waterlogged shocks. It's as if screenwriter Rafy Rivera used up all his A material on the slasher styled original, and believed plentiful Hispanic hooey could make up for the lack of a new narrative. He was clearly mistaken.
In fact, it's hard to get a handle on what this film really wants to be. In many ways, The Wailer II is like an urban legend given over to schlocky J-Horror histrionics. Our villainess is a long haired spirit who slinks around, looking for men to maul her. Once in flagrante delicto, she turns all evil and rips out their innards. Yes, there's gore, and it can be groovy at times, but it's clearly not enough to save this cinematic stumble bum. Just because a fiend does a little direct decapitation doesn't mean we care about it in the long term. In fact, The Wailer II delivers such inconsistent splatter that we wonder why the F/X team even bothered. The still beating heart? The torn open torso? The black-eyed ghoulishness of the title terror? It all looks like a resume reel for someone hoping to enter Tom Savini's makeup school. Between the no name cast (long time b-movie man Roger Cudney is the only quasi-recognizable face present) and laugh out loud dialogue (the whole domino competition subplot is surprisingly silly), you've got a direct to DVD disaster that looks as underwhelming as it plays.
Perhaps the hardest part of enduring The Wailer II comes once the final beat has hit and the "to be continued" narrative thread is extended. We suddenly recognize the lofty ambitions, the intention to make something more than a mere terror knockoff, and such sentiments are sad. It's never pretty when aspiration can't match actuality and this movie is a pristine example of that scheme. Miller manages very little of the occult ambience he's aiming for, and the amateurish nature of the acting keeps reminding us that this is nothing more than a no-budget bungle. If there had been something more than the sluice, a level of invention or intrigue that could carry us past the tedious sidetracks - heck, if we just cared about who lived and who died - maybe The Wailer II would be mildly amusing. As it stands, we keep wondering when all the macabre mayhem will occur, and realize that our wait will be very long indeed. This is routine terror at its most middling.
Amigo Films tries their best to deliver a decent DVD transfer. The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen image is frequently dark and underlit, but this may be an aesthetic choice on the part of director Miller. The digital to film remaster is good, without much of the flaring or ghosting we've come to expect from such technological tweaks, and the overall balance between color and contrast is managed quite well.
Loaded with stock sound effects and an unexceptional score, the Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround mix is mediocre at best. It's not very immersive and surpasses the Stereo 2.0 offering by the smallest of increments. There is also a Spanish language track for those who are so inclined.
Aside from a collection of trailers, the only extras offered here are a weird assortment of PC accessible content and some stills. That's it. Of course, this critic couldn't figure out how to get at the online material, so judgment will be reserved on said features. Everything else here is like the film itself - basic and routine.
How does one fairly assess a movie that made them want to gouge their own eyes out with boredom? Just because one person didn't cotton to the awkward combination of cultural pussyfooting and customary spook showboating doesn't mean someone won't. This reduces the reaction to a determination between Rent It and Skip It, and under the circumstances, there is no real reason to be magnanimous. As a result, the latter score will be submitted, acknowledging not only the subpar cinematics but the lack of legitimate fear factors as well. The Wailer II is a royal pain - the kind of motion picture that promises something it doesn't even have the backbone to truly deliver. As a result, it's worse than a basically bad horror movie. It hopes to be so much more, and fails every step of the way.
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