A lot can change in 8 years. Technology & cultural tastes are especially vulnerable to the passage of time. Fashion, language, entertainment, and modes of communication & business can go through massive transformations in just 8 months, let alone 8 years. 2014’s See No Evil 2, the sequel to 2006’s See No Evil, makes the mistake of ignoring these transformations entirely. It sets the lackluster sequel on the same night as the gross-out slasher original, but makes no attempts at continuity in the characters’ appearances or electronics. In one movie, they’re texting on bejeweled flip phones and in the next they’re discussing what’s trending on Twitter. It’s jarring.
The continuity issues don’t stop there. The two films are vastly different in both the stories they tell & the tone they tell them in. At the end of See No Evil there are 3 survivors from the hotel massacre & the supernaturally strong serial killer, Jacob Goodnight (ugh), is ultimately defeated when his heart is impaled. See No Evil 2 is set in the morgue that accepts the bodies from the hotel & there are no survivors to speak of. The killer’s eye is still missing from an attack in the first film, but his not-impaled heart is still beating in an early ambulance scene. There’s also no mention of the fact that he literally has maggots for brains in the first film or that his favorite hobby is to collect eyeballs as trophies of his kills. The eyeball collecting is a curious detail to ignore, since the pun in the film’s title is almost entirely dependent upon it. Without the eyeballs there is very little connecting the two films besides the title and the Jacob Goodnight character. Even the actor/professional wrestler who plays Jacob Goodnight is billed differently in the two films. In See No Evil he is simply billed as his wrestling persona “Kane”. In See No Evil 2, he’s graduated to Glenn “Kane” Jacobs.
Of course, consistency is not necessary to making an enjoyable slasher film starring a professional wrestler. It’s conceivably possible that the two drastically different See No Evil movies could peacefully co-exist as entertaining, loosely connected gore fests. As James pointed out in his review, the first See No Evil is surprisingly fun. It boasts “a sick charm because it knows exactly the kind of film it is and doesn’t pretend to be anything more.” See No Evil 2 unfortunately loses sight of the original’s tried-and-true cheap thrills slasher format and mistakenly attempts a slow burn suspense that is frankly beyond its limited reach. The first See No Evil is a surprisingly nasty gore fest overstuffed with vile, hateful characters that viciously get their comeuppance one at a time. See No Evil 2, by comparison, is overstuffed with bland couples sussing out their even blander relationship dynamics until they’re uneventfully killed off-screen. By the time a throat is finally slit in plain view an hour into the film & Goodnight discovers the morgue’s stash of bone saws, I felt like a sick bastard for cheering. Without any other entertaining element in play, I had a terrible case of unsatisfied bloodlust during most of the run time.
There are a few lonely bright spots in See No Evil 2. Kane, excuse me, Glen “Kane” Jacobs is visually terrifying enough in real life to be an imposing figure in a slasher movie without much help, something the first See No Evil uses to its advantage. See No Evil 2 goes the extra mile and costumes him in a plastic burn victim mask & black rubber apron that does wonders for his appearance. When he pauses to inspect his new, “improved” visage in a bathroom mirror he has a fairly hilarious “What have I become?” moment that I got a kick out of. The film’s central idea of throwing a surprise birthday party in a morgue also has an amusing charm to it, as does Kane taking chair shots to the head, something he’s been well-trained to do in the wrestling ring. Like most things in this franchise, though, the chair shots gag is exploited much more effectively in the first film, which makes the moment a little hollow. Similarly, by the time See No Evil 2’s sole over-the-top gore arrives in the last ten minutes (the killer is pumped full of vibrantly blue embalming fluid) the film had already asked for too much patience & instead of the “Awesome!” reaction it was looking for, I found myself thinking “Finally!”, something I didn’t experience with the first film.
Of course, it’s a little unfair to constantly compare the entertainment value of See No Evil 2 to that of its predecessor, but it’s a comparison that the film itself encourages often. There are frequent flashbacks & recaps of the first film in its sequel, unwisely reminding me that the product was actually fun at one time. In these recaps it becomes overwhelmingly clear just how different the two movies are. In 2006 See No Evil was imitating the recent successes of ultraviolent (in an icky way) horror flicks like Hostel & Saw, which allowed it to supplant minor details like a decent script or a reason to exist with detached eyeballs and buckets of gore. In the 8 years since its release Hollywood horror had softened greatly, aiming its sights on a PG-13 crowd, playing down bloodshed in order to sell more tickets. Instead of ignoring this trend like it ignored the continuity in the films’ story, the See No Evil franchise also softened in those 8 years. You can see the difference in See No Evil 2’s flashbacks, the dank squalor of the first film clashing with the clinical cleanliness of the second.
Although the films are ostensibly set on the same night, the 8 years that separate them are impossible to ignore. Updating See No Evil 2 for the watered-down 2014 slasher aesthetic was a huge mistake. It was a franchise well-suited for 2006’s often disgusting brand of gross-out gore & torture. Remove its mean streak and there’s not much left besides a bald, one-eyed wrestler in a plastic mask gloomily gazing in a bathroom mirror, asking himself “What have I become?”