I bring my “After Scream” blog series to a close with this one. Having covered every slasher in my collection that comes from the decade following the Scream trilogy, I leave you with 3 films that came exactly 10 years after the first film was released. As a bonus, I’ve added one film’s sequel, which wasn’t released until 2014. Uh-oh. Is it the start of an “After Scream 4” blog series…? These days, you gotta have a sequel!
BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON (2006)
Ten years after the first Scream was released, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon took the deconstruction of slasher films one step further—and tossed in a found footage feel at times. A small documentary crew follows an expert masked killer as he breaks down every last detail of how he pulls off all the tricks of the slasher trade.
The setup presents to us a reality in which Freddy, Jason, and Michael Myers were actual killers. The crew even makes brief visits to the locations of each murderer’s killing spree, leading to a cameo by Kane Hodder as a suburbanite entering the house on Elm Street. Even Chucky and Leatherface are referenced, and there are also Easter eggs from various horror movies embedded in the film if you pay close enough attention.
In fact, there is plenty for diehard slasher fans to love about the first hour of this film. The Vernon character is perfectly bizarre as he walks the crew through his process, from picking the right final girl to target, to establishing his backstory and preparing all the traps and pitfalls the group of victims will face when he chases them. One detail for nitpickers…the killer’s main target is referenced as the “survivor girl,” which Vernon claims is an “industry term,” when the truth is, NOT.
Zelda Rubinstein of the original Poltergeist makes a brief appearance as a librarian, and Robert Englund is great as the Donald Pleasence character—a psychiatrist who is in hot pursuit of our killer.
There’s even an appearance by our dearly departed Hershel from The Walking Dead! It was cool to see him, but his role is totally pointless. Cutting it out would have trimmed the running time a bit and helped fix the film’s biggest problem…the meta shtick starts to wear thin, causing the middle to drag.
In the final act, the film at last changes course and reaches the moment we’ve been waiting for – Vernon putting into action the slasher scenario he has been outlining all along. The first kill doesn’t take place until an hour and 9 minutes into the film, but once it does, the last 20 minutes or so deliver all the classic slasher clichés. And the big twist is just what Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon needed to really make it stand out from the barrage of clone slashers released in the wake of the Scream franchise.
SIMON SAYS (2006)
The disdain for this film I’ve seen online boggles my mind. This is one of the best slasher comedy party movies of the era if you take it is an over the-top, darkly comic, backwoods horror film that subtly mocks the genre rather than using blatant humor. Hell, it opens with a little kid bashing his brother over the head with a toy truck! Awesome.
Then we meet a bunch of kids heading to the woods for some camping: the sweet girl, the slut, the bitchy athletic girl, the dumb stud, and the pothead. When they get lost, they stop at a cemetery, where not one but two crazy old men appear to warn them to stay away from the place they’re heading. Next stop, a convenience store, where they meet not one, but two creepy clerks, both played by…Crispin Glover! He’s twins in possibly one of my favorite Crispin Glover roles ever! His Friday the 13th days behind him, he is now the campsite killer, he’s perfectly psycho, and he’s loaded with one-liners delivered in a loony way no one does like Crispin Glover.
Once the kills begin, there’s no way not to see this film for what it is—a splatter comedy. Crispin has the woods rigged with some of most gore-ific, slicing, dicing, and impaling contraptions ever. The body count is upped significantly by the sudden, random appearance of a bunch of paintball players. Crispin simply squashes a poodle with his boot like it’s a bug (I felt so guilty for laughing at a doggy death). In the middle of the woods he has a rotating, targeting turret that throws axes faster than a tennis ball machine. I was laughing out loud when not one, but two different scenes had victims attempting to avoid the projectile axes while running through the woods. The kills in this film are bloody delicious.
On top of that, the dumb stud, played by Artie Baxter (Vile), is shirtless for a majority of the film. There’s a lair filled with dead bodies and…newspaper articles about loads of murders. Glover brings the main girl, played by Margo Harshman (From Within, Sorority Row), to a Texas Chainsaw style dinner party, only he holds his outdoors. The main girl tries to seduce Glover right in the middle of the dinner table while surrounded by all the corpse guests, which leads to a hilarious battle between the pair.
Simon Says is an instant classic for me. As for the top billing Blake Lively gets on the DVD cover? It’s because she was in Gossip Girl when the film was released. She only appears for about 2 minutes in the film’s epilogue. Margo Harshman was fucking robbed.
SEE NO EVIL (2006)
Cashing in on the new levels of brutality ushered in by the Saw decade, See No Evil stars wrestler Kane as Jacob, an enormous, seemingly supernaturally powerful killer taking down juvenile delinquents that come to a derelict hotel to clean it up for renovations. The film is directed by Gregory Dark, whose filmography consists predominantly of adult films, including installments of classic franchises such as The Devil in Miss Jones, Animal Instincts, Between the Cheeks, and New Wave Hookers. The first New Wave Hookers is infamous because it features an underage Traci Lords.
With that tidbit of trivia in mind, Jacob’s motivation in See No Evil is fitting. As a child, he was locked in a cage and abused by his religious fanatic mother for thinking about girls and sex. In flashbacks, we even see that she would wash his eyes out in the shower while saying things like, “The eyes are the window of the soul.”
Sooooo…Jacob now digs his victims’ eyes out with his gnarly fingers and puts them in jars in his lair in the derelict hotel. Kane’s massive presence makes for the perfect killer, and the rundown hallways are an ideal setting. Also, the captures and kills, which consist of Jacob snagging his victims with a giant hook on a long chain, are deliciously violent, the eye gouging makes for some great gore, and the kills are gruesome.
See No Evil isn’t particularly “scary” (we get mostly cheap, bogus jump scares while the kids are cleaning up) or edge-of-your-seat suspenseful, but it has that sleek, fast-paced feel of new millennium slashers, there’s a good old shower scene with T&A, and the kills come rapid fire. There’s even an unexpected twist not too far into the movie that changes everything you thought you could expect from the plot and character focus. It also has some familiar horror faces, including sexy Michael J. Pagan (House of Fears, Chain Letter, Fallen), and ideal scream queen material Rachael Taylor (666 Park Avenue, The Darkest Hour, Shutter, Man-Thing, Ghost Machine).
Best of all, Jacob’s “death scene” rocks, and there’s a bonus punch line if you sit through the closing credits. Of course, Jacob’s not really dead, but it did take him nearly a decade to get back on his feet for more slaughtering….
SEE NO EVIL 2 (2014)
So eight years later, the sequel comes around, and actually takes place the very same night of the hotel massacre! Danielle Harris works at a morgue, it’s her birthday, and she’s surprised when her friends show up to throw her a party. Also showing up is Jacob’s “dead” body.
Directed by the Soska Sisters (aka: Twisted Twins), See No Evil 2 is mostly a run-of-the-mill slasher sequel with a just a few notable aspects. Scream queen Katharine Isabelle plays a slutty bimbo who decides to mount Jacob’s corpse, inevitably causing him to wake up from his slumber mighty pissed off.
She also knows a ridiculous amount of details about the killer’s backstory—considering the hotel massacre just happened that night. Major flaw. Also, for reasons I’ll never understand, Katharine becomes a “comic relief” character. At least, I hope that was the intention, otherwise she just gave a bad performance here. Her campy overacting is fun and fresh for her and would be great to see in the appropriate context (think the Hatchet series), but See No Evil 2 is in no way light, so the performance and character are jarringly out of place.
Danielle Harris, definitely one of the strongest actresses in the genre today, rescues much of this cookie cutter sequel’s running time. Plus, hottie Grayston Holt of the TV show Bitten plays her dick of a brother, and cutie Lee Majdoub (Dead Rising: Endgame, ABCs of Death 2) shows off his hot bod and a hint of his ass during a sex scene with Katharine Isabelle.
The film’s strong point is in the second half. There’s plenty of cat and mouse chasing, the kills are just as perfectly brutal as in the first film (although, Jacob has pretty much given up on the eye-plucking fun), there are a couple of awesomely unexpected plot surprises, and Danielle’s male counterpart gets one major beating at the hands of Jacob. This kick ass sequence takes full advantage of Kane’s expertise as a professional wrestler and is the highlight of this sequel for me.