Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2:
Now I'm just scratching my head. Having paid my own damn good money to rent the original Laid to Rest movie - a pretty darn good slice of gore for gore's sake - so that I could bring you, the reader, and informed take on Chromeskull, I find myself wanting that money back so I can avoid writing this review. Whereas gore maestro Robert Hall's first Chromeskull movie studiously avoids logic in order to deliver a real thrill ride, his follow-up to that movie piles on illogic, chaos and confusion to spawn a mess only its mother could love.
A true sequel, Chromeskull starts up right where the original left off, as police swoop in to investigate a convenience store turned abattoir, filled with the bodies of the mysterious murderer and his victims - except for that one girl who got away, of course. The movie then twists in the viewers hands, and even though this brain-bending dynamic shift forms the foundation of the movie (and sequels that Hall and Image Entertainment clearly hope will follow, just like Saw) I will avoid spoiling things by getting into details.
Suffice it to say, as cops investigate, Chromeskull's work continues somehow, unabated. People have skin removed from their heads, whirling super-knives fillet jaws, and those knives pretty much continue to saw away at poor folk's necks. Oh yeah, there's a fair amount of blood, too. Nonetheless, things go very wrong: for victims, ostensible protagonists, fans of gore, and fans of entertainment. While giving us nobody to identify with, Hall bleeds the fun out of everything. First and foremost, a movie like this should be fun. You should like - or at least be able to identify - the heroes. Virtually everyone in Chromeskull is evil, bland, or in some way hard to like. Brian Austin Green's phoned-in performance does him no favors. He just sets his tone on 'glower' and goes through the motions. The cops working the case are uniformly brusque and unprofessional, our nominal heroine gets a 'movie of the week' malady to ignore, and nothing else. And then there are the villains; dry, without emotion or personality, and trapped in a Chromeskull mythology so ridiculous that it might work if it were played for laughs, but it isn't.
Hall's use of sui generis insanity worked well before as an honest way to move from kill A to kill B. Since that's much of what it takes to satisfy viewers, why then did Hall tone down the gore, then completely obscure it with spastic editing and zero light? These kills are not more creative or bloody than before, but it doesn't matter since you can't see them anyway. Hall's masterful work with the red stuff, a seamless blend of CGI and primarily practical work, is still much, much better than what you'll find in most other direct to DVD movies, so it's really unfortunate how short-changed it is in Chromeskull.
Perhaps my expectations were set too high, but watching Chromeskull so soon after the meaner, gorier, and far more fun Laid to Rest is a really disappointing experience. To Hall's credit, you can still feel the courage of his convictions here, making Chromeskull more authentic than the never ending stream of Hollywood remakes, but he misses on most other counts. This dimly lit exercise in confusion cheats viewers on gore, leaving you with an illogical mystery about which you don't care. You might Rent It, but you'll probably be bummed out too.
Here's where I rip into Image Entertainment for providing us with a screener that's just as illogical and aggravating as the movie it hopes to sell. The feature is presented in anamorphic widescreen for 16 X 9 TVs. I can't comment on quality since this is a screener. But I will say reviewers shouldn't have to watch product that's hamstrung by a picture that turns black-and-white every ten minutes so that a burn-in message advising me not to pirate the movie can appear over, and obscure, the action. I'm taking off half a star, Image Entertainment, since your interest in loss-prevention supercedes the reviewer's desire to see the movie as it should be seen.
Audio doesn't have any watermarking technology, but since this is a screener I can't comment on its quality either. I will say that it sounds like this was mixed for maximum annoyance. Most characters speak in an inaudible, gruff whisper, while screams and shock sound effects are louder than loud.
No extras are included on our screener, though the package indicates a commentary track, a making-of featurette, bloopers, deleted scenes, trailers, and a 'jump-to-a-kill' option are on the retail product. I'm going to go ahead and complain again. What the hell, Image Entertainment? Why are you delivering Chromeskull screeners on a disc that shares space with the comedy Puck Hogs? Thanks and all, since I know that when I'm considering buying horror movies for retail sale, I always want to consider comedies at the same time, but ... huh?
Robert Hall's sequel to the vastly superior Laid to Rest, lowers all standards. Gore is less plentiful, though obscured by shadowy lighting and frantic editing, and characters are routinely unlikable ciphers. Hall has even abandoned the first movie's delightful insistence on providing no answers, a technique that usually increases feelings of unease and insanity. For Chromeskull, Hall begins constructing some sort of conspiracy mythology that makes less than no sense. Still, for providing plenty of relentless killing, Hall barely ekes out a Rent It recommendation for ol' Chrome Dome.
- Kurt Dahlke
~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com