The Blackwell Hotel! Once it ranked among the most lavishly elegant hotels in Los Angeles -- a decadent playground for the wealthy and privileged -- but it's spent the past few decades crumbling into ruin. Since what's left of the sprawling hotel is at the corner of Mug That Mufukka and No Wait Stab Him First, there's not much point in reopening it...not exactly gonna draw the in-crowd...but hey, beggers can't be choosers, so why not turn it into a jumbo-sized homeless shelter? All it really needs is a good spit-'n-polish, so a handful of cons (including Rachael Taylor and a bunch of Aussie actors the smart money says you've never heard of) are fished out of some L.A. jail to slather on the elbow grease. I don't know what the city thinks a few twentysomething jackasses can really accomplish in the space of three days, but if they spend this extended weekend doing the whole renovation thing, they get a month knocked off their sentences. Sounds like a pretty good deal, and...hey! they've managed to squirrel away some pot, it's a co-ed social experiment so they can still screw around, and there's even a legend about a hidden safe fat-packed with who knows how many hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Most slasher flicks anymore are either watered down to pander to the PG-13 crowd or pack some sort of gimmicky hook to draw in an audience. The hook See No Evil leans on is...well, a hook...y'know, at the end of a chain that Jacob chucks at his prey to drag 'em his way. He's also lugging around an axe to help with the whole hack-and-slash thing, he digs out eyeballs with his bare hands, he strings up one PETA-loving granola chick as doggie treats for a pack of feral mutts... Hell, if hearing the tinny, metallic ring of a cellphone in a theater has ever sent you into a psychotic rage, then watching how Jacob offs one endlessly yapping broad ought to be kinda cathartic. See No Evil is a straightahead slasher with a sadistic but kinda playful bent, a throwback to the glut of stalk-and-stab flicks churned out in the wake of Halloween and Friday the 13th.
It's kind of generic, sure...the sort of movie you'd spot in some garish, oversized clamshell case from Gorgon Video in a VHS cutout bin twentysomething years ago...but that's the point, really. Shower scene? Check. Bunch of slasher fodder that's almost -- but not quite -- acting? Check, and part of the fun is that the predominately Aussie cast can't quite shake their native accents. Any real point other than locking a bunch of pricks in a crumbling hotel and waiting for them to be hacked into bloody, fist-sized chunks? Not really. It's completely content running through the standard issue slasher formula, and it does it...alright, I guess. The kills aren't as graphic or visceral as the Saw / Hostel set, but they're still intense and slathered in splatter, and a couple of 'em are cacklingly, brilliantly, and deliriously over-the-top. The hulking Kane -- pushing seven feet tall and weighing about as much as a Nissan Stanza -- makes for a pretty decent
The worst thing about See No Evil, really, is director Gregory Dark. You might recognize that name from the credits of music videos or...well, hardcore porn, but Dark cut his teeth on cult cinema too, hammering out movies with mind-controlled maniac cops and post-apocalyptic Blade Runner-lite with Wings Hauser twenty years back. He has at least a little genre cred, and you'd think a guy who's spent so much of the past decade churning out glitzy videos for Linkin Park and Drowning Pool would feel more at home with hyperkinetic quick-cutting and Saw-infused style. Its stabs at visceral visuals just come across as excessively awkward and labored, though. There's no rhythm or flow to the edits -- just an uncomfortable barrage -- and the flash cuts and whip pans seem like a first-year film student trying to mimic something he half-remembered seeing in a movie once. It's all kind of amateurish, really, and Dark recycles the same few tricks over and over and over again. When you're treated to close-up #467 of roaches skittering across the floor, it's, like...yeah, I get it: they're in a rotting corpse of a hotel, there hasn't been a maid on the payroll since What's Happening? was still on the air, and I'd really like to see something else, please. Doing the whole flip-the-steadicam-rig-around-on-the-actor-as-he-darts-around trick even made me laugh out loud.
Eh, even though there's part of it that's a little too eager to weasel its way in with the Saw and Hostel crowd, See No Evil is at its depraved, maniacal little heart an '80s slasher. It's not trying to upend the face of horror or anything -- just hack apart a bunch of kids -- and even if this isn't a flick I can really picture myself giving another spin anytime soon, slasher completists ought to find it at least worth a rental. Rent It.
Sporting gritty, grainy photography and a bleak, desaturated palette, See No Evil sticks to a pretty standard issue slasher look, and this isn't the sort of flick that dazzles so much in high-def. It looks okay on Blu-ray, but See No Evil comes across as kinda soft and flat, really, and crispness and fine detail both fall a couple of notches below average. Even though See No Evil only dates back to 2006, I'd have guessed it's a few years older than that after giving it a spin on Blu-ray. Unimpressive but alright.
See No Evil has the mattes opened up slightly to an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and its AVC encode fits snugly on a single layer Blu-ray disc.
Like pretty much everything Lionsgate has churned out on Blu-ray, See No Evil is lugging around a 24-bit, 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. It's not as hyperaggressive as I waltzed in expecting, really, reserving the rears mostly to flesh out an unsettlingly creepy ambiance: dripping water, creaking wood, and howling I-don't-know-what. It kind of goes without saying that the track screams to life during the kill scenes, though, and they sport that Motorhead rule of sound design by mixing everything louder than everything else. Quiet, loud, quiet...hey, it's like a Pixies song! Gutteral screams, the meaty thud of a whacked axe, and the sound of that oversized fish hook tearing into flesh are all rendered disturbingly well on Blu-ray, and the movie's bolstered further by a thunderous low-end.
There aren't any dubs or downmixes this time around, but See No Evil does pack subtitles in English (SDH) and Spanish.
The Final Word
After the gaggle of bloodless, gasp-whodunnit murder mysteries that passed for slashers in the '90s and double-aughts, it's kinda nice to dig up something as brutal and sadistic as See No Evil. There's nothing even a little bit remarkable about it, but that's kind of the point, and it really does feel like a vintage slasher that Lionsgate could've dug out of its musty Vestron library: a bunch of crappy actors shoved in a crumbling hotel and carved apart one by one. It's the flick's clunky stabs at Mtvgenerationheyithinktheydidthisinsaw style that really drag it down, and with a better director at the helm, I'd probably have chucked a higher recommendation its way. See No Evil isn't a good horror flick in the sense of...y'know, good, but the slasher set ought to find it at least worth a rental. Rent It.