WWE's latest foray into the theatrical market is See No Evil, a customized vehicle for wrestler Kane (Glen Jacobs) and his malevolent persona. The DVD includes a short promo, "Kane: Journey into Darkness," which explains the wrestler's ring character, and functions as a natural prologue for his step from the roped stage to the movie soundstage.
Probably the most successful wrestler to enjoy an acting career of late is the Rock, and he must have sensed that better parts were his only salvation from drivel like The Scorpion King and his mostly CGI appearance in The Mummy Returns. Like the Rock, Kane brings to the big screen his recognizable grimace or sneer, depending on the angle of the high contrast lighting, but a villain needs more than a cold look and physical bulk to transcend a generic youth bodycount flick.
Director Gregory Dark (aka Gregory Hippolyte) knows how to tell a story, and in spite of his music video roots, See No Evil isn't a psychotically edited thriller with all flash and no shocks. The production team at WWE knew the film needed the wetness of a R-rated film, and designed excellent gore effects, all well-profiled in the making-of featurette. A good deal of practical and CGI effects were employed in the film, and along with an elaborately decaying hotel set, See No Evil looks like a glossy studio B-picture, and is more enjoyable than most of Dark Castle's limp offerings.
As he recounts in the first of the disc's two commentary tracks, WWF writer Dan Madigan actually developed the film's premise, of troubled youths volunteering for reduced sentence time, on a real-life program, but once the group enters what's clearly a dangerous hotel with structural and health issues, the film pretty much becomes a fusion of a Jason archetype interpolated into another retelling of The Toolbox Murders. The killer uses hidden passages and hallways to stalk and kill, and the story never benefits from a secondary thread to counterbalance the predictable stalk-and-hooking of obnoxious youths.
There's some backstory involving an abused childhood, and a Bible-thumping mum who parroted the phrase 'see the evil?' to her caged son because he kept touching himself; and we also learn in a predictable flash-cut montage of how mumsy showed Jacob Goodnight that gouging out the eye from a nubile was the first step towards conquering global sin in the post-nuclear age, but it's all marginal subtext that mostly exists to repulse rather than enhance what's really a flat character with a fetish for pickling eyeballs in pee-tinted Bickles jars. Kane has a physical presence, but in playing off his no-speak wrestling persona, he's just another bulky meanie who knows how to lasso victims with a chain and nasty hook.
The straightforward plotting and characters also ensures the commentary tracks aren't particularly deep, although writer Madigan at least points out scenes and some character backgrounds that were tweaked or trimmed in the final edit. Kane himself is a man of few words, and his track with co-executive producer Joe Blaugrund is spotty, and could have been edited with the writer & director track into something much tighter and engaging.
Ben Nott's cinematography is very atmospheric, and makes use of the excellent disintegrating hotel set that evokes a once thriving fifties in-place. The 5.1 sound mix is fairly aggressive, and while Tyler Bates provides another punchy atmospheric score, it's clear genre producers keep hiring him to write what's becoming predictable, dissonant sound design; Slither (2006) managed to demonstrate he could satirize the silliness of the horror genre, but his best work remains the minimal cues for the drama Rated X (2000), and the superb reworking of Roy Budd's Get Carter theme in Bates' own dynamic synth-jazz-techno score for the 2000 remake.
Also archived on the DVD are WWE promo featurettes with the actors and on-set clips, each running around (1:20 to 1:30), and a storyboard comparison, with the finished material involving a tree hugger who quickly discovers feral dogs are quite comfortable eating the other white meat.
A standard thriller with above-average gore, which adds death by cellphone to the slasher manual.
© 2006 Mark R. Hasan