Originally Published January 31, 2016
Since I was a kid I’ve been a fan of professional wrestling. Sure it’s stupid but I find its mix of fake sport and soap opera oddly appealing. When done well it can combine my love of action scenes, drama and general oddness all at the same time. Broadcasting in over 150 countries and holding over 300 events a year the biggest company, by a wide margin, is the WWE. What I find even more interesting is the company’s insistence to try and venture into other forms of entertainment. Past attempts have included the World Bodybuilding Federation, a restaurant called The World (seriously the worst restaurant name) and the XFL. Their latest endeavor is WWE Studios, a film company that specializes in action and horror movies starring wrestlers. How was I not writing about this for years? Well I’ve finally gotten less lazy and will be reviewing these cinematic classics once a month.
Now in researching on what I will have to watch I quickly realized that they have release a surprising amount of movies. With that said that unless something changes I don’t plan on watching any WWE movies that don’t feature wrestlers. Sorry to any fans of whatever Road to Paloma is. I also won’t review any of the animated movies. Mostly because I have no interest in watching Scooby Doo but who knows if this will change. With that now out of the way lets get into WWE’s first foray into film, See No Evil.
See No Evil
Wrestling Moves Used- 0
Real Actors- Nobody of Note
Working for a reduced sentence a group of juvenile delinquents (who look in their mid 20’s) are sent to clean up an abandoned hotel. Unfortunately for them they have entered the home of Jacob Goodnight (pro wrestler Kane). As the group of volunteers explore the Blackwell Hotel they are picked off one-by-one with Goodnight’s razor sharp nails (cooler than they sound) and meat hook.
Of all of the WWE movies this is one of the two that I have actually seen I’m theatres. Between being a big wrestling fan and at a time when I consumed all things horror it seemed like the perfect mix. So I paid my $9, sat down, watched the movie and thought it was alright. I remembered it as a typical slasher film of the time. Looking back for this project though, I was pleasantly surprised.
That isn’t to say it was good. Directed by music video and apparently porn auteur Gregory Dark (stay classy WWE) it is the epitome of what was going on in slasher movies at the time. From the start we get a barrage of quick cuts mixed with epilepsy inducing flashes of white. Very much like a bootleg Saw. It is especially annoying when accompanied by a soundtrack mixing generic metal and bland rap. I can’t say the acting isn’t much better either. Apparently filmed in Australia the cast is constantly struggling to keep their accents at bay. The whole time I was hoping someone would say the word emergency like the kid in the Bart Vs. Australia episode of The Simpsons. At the very least have the treasure be dollaredoos. I’m sure it doesn’t help that characters are a collection of broad stereotype that merely exist as opposed to having actual personalities. Last but not least we get a killer with a fondness for religious iconography and body mutilation. Needless to say at no point does anything particularly original happen.
The thing is at no point is any of this a problem. The film seems to know what it is from the get go and runs with it. The intention of the movie is to make a solid slasher movie and it delivers. A lot of this can be attributed to writer Dan Madigan (who from what I can tell only has experience on the WWE writing crew). Like good professional wrestling what See No Evil lacks in intelligence it more than makes up for in entertainment value. We get some surprisingly fun kills involving, but not limited to, eye gouging, stray dogs and mid-2000’s cell phones. They certainly don’t skimp out when it comes to gore. Despite a bit too much bad CGI for my taste it’s still quite the blood soaked endeavor. As for WWE wrestler Kane as our killer, Jacob Goodnight, he’s perfectly acceptable. All the role requires is looking big and scary which he has done all his career. While not exactly Kane Hodder he does quite well as a slasher. The only major problem is that he doesn’t do any wrestling moves. I know it’s silly but why have a wrestler if he isn’t going to use a wrestling move? A choke slam into a bed of spikes would have been perfect.
See No Evil is kind of perfect as a debut for WWE Films. While far from high art it accomplishes its goal of having a wrestler star in an entertaining movie. Sure See No Evil has its issues when it comes to actually having a plot and acting. But if you know what you are going into See No Evil will be a blast. Oh and before I forget we literally have a dog pissing in the eye of one of the dead bodies. It really adds nothing but I can picture in my head Vince McMahon insisting this be included and that it’s hilarious. Vince McMahon is an insane old man.
See No Evil 2
Real Actors- Danielle Harris, Katherine Isabelle
Wrestling Moves Used- 1/2 a move
Amy (Danielle Harris) is about to go out for her birthday when an emergency happens, the body of Jacob Goodnight (a returning Kane) is coming into the morgue. As Amy’s friends come by to celebrate her birthday Jacob Goodnight comes back from the dead. Can the friends survive the night or will they be his latest victims?
WWE Films had changed quite a bit since the first film. Now known as WWE Studios the company was losing money hand over fist for years. After 12 Rounds bombed they stuck to mostly home video releases with the occasional theatrical release. While The Marine and 12 Rounds franchises continued on video it wasn’t until 8 years later that See No Evil came out on VOD and video. In all honesty I am surprised it took this long for a sequel. Not only was it a hit (by WWE Studios standards anyway) but horror is usually a surefire hit financially. After seeing the movie though, maybe they should have waited a bit longer.
Okay that was a bit harsh. In all honesty See No Evil 2 is an improvement over its predecessor in quite a few ways. Helmed by actual directors, the Soska Sisters, the film looks way better than the first. Gone are the schizophrenic edits and bootleg-Saw cuts. Instead we have horror veterans in the Soskas who were actually able to build suspense. Joining them were scream queens Danielle Harris and Katherine Isabelle. As always the two are able to elevate a relatively basic script. Aside from a cameo by Nancy Bell (as Jacob Goodnight’s mother) the only person to return from the first film is Kane. Like the first movie he fits the role of a slasher perfectly. Now with a Cody Rhodes style mask he actually looks like a proper horror movie killer. This all changes when he talks.
As great as Kane is as a villain he drops the ball when it comes to actually acting. He’s just not good at it. They give him some bit about him thinking he’s delivering judgement from God instead of a guy who gouges people’s eyes out. While I am all for better characterization this felt lazy.Unfortunately the writing doesn’t get much better for the rest of the cast. While the acting is much better than it was in the first film they are even blander in this movie. Somehow the characters are even less defined than before feeling more like blank palattes as opposed to broad stereotypes. The cast does their best but they just don’t have enough to work with.
Despite getting body horror experts The Soska Sisters to direct See No Evil 2 feels pretty light on the gore as well. While the first film had a more over-the-top approach to it See No Evil 2 has a more straight forward kills. Gone are the use of deer antlers and cell phones as weapons. For the majority of the film Jacob Goodnight uses a spiked machete. While it looks cool enough it takes away one of the best parts of the first film. Sadly, once again, nobody actually does a wrestling move. The closest we get is Jacob Goodnight hit with a wooden chair like it’s an 80’s Texas Deathmatch. Boo.
I can’t believe I am going to say this but this wasn’t as good as the first See No Evil. Sure getting real actors and directors. Suspense is built up and that’s great. Unfortunately this is all for naught since they have to work with a pretty pedestrian script that lacks all the charm of the original. They do tease a sequel so hopefully they can finally get this right. Preferably in less than 8 years.