Anyone who knows me knows that if a movie stars a professional wrestler, I’m immediately happy as a film fan. Yeah, I’m probably easily impressed, but still, whenever I see my favorite WWE (or otherwise) superstars make the leap to the world of feature films, it makes my inner child giddy. As a kid, it was the reason I first rented They Live, it was the reason I begged my mom mercilessly to see No Holds Barred in theaters, and when I learned in late 1986 that Jesse “The Body” Ventura was going to be co-starring in Predator, the next summer could not get here fast enough.
Even as an adult, I’m always a big fan of seeing wrestlers transition to movies, and that has a lot to do with my soft spot for Gregory Dark’s See No Evil. It features Glenn Jacobs (also known as “Kane” amongst us wrestling fans) as the sadistic killer Jacob Goodnight, who is hell-bent on tormenting a group of delinquents tasked with cleaning up a decrepit old hotel that just happens to be Jacob’s lair. Sure, it may seem on the surface like it was trying to become the next Saw, but there’s a lot of great stuff going on in See No Evil that many of its naysayers overlooked.
When it was released in May 2006, most film critics immediately dismissed See No Evil as a soulless slasher movie that was both predictable and boring, and those are sentiments I could not disagree with more. Sure, it came out during a period when many theatrical horror movies were trying to ape the Saw series in one way or another, so a lot of elements in See No Evil feel familiar, particularly the editing style, but I’m guessing that was mostly due to Lionsgate’s involvement. As far as modern slashers go, Jacob Goodnight is a worthy enough cinematic killer who should be judged by his own murderous merits.
At the time See No Evil was released, Kane (aka Jacobs) was already a highly seasoned wrestler, often playing a demonic character in some of WWE’s most twisted storylines. See No Evil played to his strengths as a performer, highlighting his formidable size, an unforgettable visage, and his brutal demeanor against opponents. The fact that Jacobs only utters a single line throughout See No Evil is another nod to his grappling persona, as Kane wasn’t always the chattiest of wrestlers during both the Attitude and Ruthless Aggression eras in WWE.
Being a man of so few words, Goodnight was a perfect extension of Kane’s WWE personality and gave Jacobs an opportunity to show what he could do physically as an actor when you don’t have dialogue to rely on. There’s a moment in See No Evil when Goodnight toys with a victim hanging upside down from a windowsill that effectively showcases his “playful” side, akin to a cat toying with a wounded mouse. The biggest reason that scene works as well as it does for me is due to Kane’s facial expressions throughout—it’s great stuff.
Goodnight also has several clever tricks to keep tabs on anyone lurking around the Blackwell Hotel. Trigger wires connected to a bell system alert him to any activity, while two-way mirrors and secret passageways allow him to spy on unsuspecting victims in various locations. These methodical touches feel like homages to Peeping Tom and Psycho, the latter also spilling over into the mythology behind Jacob Goodnight (to say he has “mommy issues” would be a huge understatement).
I also appreciated Goodnight’s savagery as a killer; he often utilizes a crude grappling hook to snare his prey, and I dug how for most of See No Evil, Jacob basically does his own twisted version of fishing. The incorporation of religious iconography into the film’s story is another nice touch, as we see how his conflicted beliefs in right versus wrong come into play. During See No Evil’s third act, he’s chastised by his vengeful mother for not doing a better job as the “Hands of God”, something she always intended for him to become through his violent acts against the sinners of the world.
Plus, in this day and age, when people on their cell phones in public places have become something of an epidemic (especially when watching a movie in a theater), it’s hard for me not to appreciate a killer who shoves a cell phone down an obnoxious girl’s mouth, a moment that would have made for a killer Drafthouse Cinema PSA back in 2006.
A lean and mean slasher film that’s far better than most will ever give it credit for, See No Evil unfairly gets lumped under the “torture porn” label that defined many of the grittier horror movies of its time (it’s my least favorite moniker, next to “elevated horror”), but it is so much more than that. It features an effective and memorable villain who actually has a thoughtfully conceived mythology to fuel his actions, several brutally fun kills, and squirm-inducing moments of gore, as well as some truly amazing production design and a strong score from Tyler Bates.
It may not be the best slasher movie to have been released in 2006, but See No Evil is still a great effort from both Dark and Kane, and I’m glad Jacob Goodnight finally got the cinematic resurrection he deserved back in 2014 (even if it did come a few years later than it should have).