Written by: Kevin Bocarde, Robert Hall
Directed by: Robert Hall
Starring: Brian Austin Green, Thomas Dekker and Mimi Michaels
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
Even though it barely possessed a brain within its chromed-out skull, Laid to Rest managed to become a big enough indie horror hit back in 2009. This is the only way to account for the existence of Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2, whose budget was apparently big enough to wrangle in the likes of Brian Austin Green and Danielle Harris. Unfortunately, it couldnít buy a better script, as Robert Hallís follow-up is only slightly less brain-damaged than the original film. I hardly think most will care about this, though, so let me just get the obvious out of the way up front: itís all pretty much okay because Hall is at least smart enough to go bigger and bolder with the incredible gore and the outrageous concept behind Chromeskull himself.
When we last saw the titular serial killer, his head had been reduced to sludge by the amnesiac Princess (Allison Kyler). We return to that scene in the sequel, and it looks like some paramedics, headed by Preston (Green), have arrived to clean up the mess. As it turns out, this group actually acts as Chromeskullís handlers, so they scrape him up off the ground and help him to recover. Meanwhile, Preston ties up the loose entrails by gutting poor Princess in a nearby motel room, an act that allows Chromeskull to move on to his next target a few months later: Jess (Mimi Michaels), a young girl who is almost legally blind.
Fortunately, Laid to Rest 2 wonít make you wish you were legally blind yourself; itís fairly bad in the same way most slashers are bad, but this series is perhaps a bit more frustratingly bad. Like its predecessor, you can feel the seeds of something interesting being planted before it degenerates into a typical stalk and stab (and stab and stab and stab) affair. Iím not usually the type to rewrite a movie as Iím watching it, but I couldnít help but think what a few tweaks here and there would have done for the suspense and the story. For one thing, Hall blows his load with the Preston character a bit too early; I thought the original Laid to Rest worked early on because he drew out the suspense in that opening act, where you werenít quite sure if Tucker was going to really help Princess or not, and this felt like an opportunity to maybe riff on that by having us believe Preston really is a government agent (or whatever) before finally revealing his true intentions in a shocking, meaningful moment.
But instead, heís just sort of causally revealed (along with Danielle Harris) to be a part of this weird cadre who is apparently charged with handling Chromeskull; there were hints of this with the funeral home owner in the first film, and it looks to be expounded upon here--except it isnít. We basically learn that Chromeskull has babysitters, and Green and Harris basically spend their time squawking at each other when they arenít off doing their own thing. For Green, this entails exchanging texts with Chromeskull while also dreaming of becoming his successor; I think Greenís biggest claim to fame the last couple of years has been hanging with Megan Fox, and heís sort of acting like it, as heís perpetually ornery and irritated here. On the other hand, Harris basically spends all of her time grooming Chromeskull, who spends most of the time getting prepared to show up for his act, which includes killing poor Jess (who has been abducted to a huge warehouse). Apparently, Chrome has the temperament of Axl Rose and just shows up for his performances whenever he wants to; for a minute, I pondered if he also needed an entire jar of M&Ms with all of the brown ones removed.
When he finally shows up, the script continues to drop the ball once the two threads (Prestonís desire to be the new Chromeskull and the stalking of Jess) intertwine. Hall sets himself up for a nice twist here, as Preston spends most of the movie torturing and taunting Jess about her impending disembowelment at the hands of Chromeskull; you wonder how interesting it should be once the tables are turned a bit and he suddenly finds himself expendable to Chromeskullís operations. However, Hall opts for the rote path, one thatís lined with blood, decapitations, and other eviscerations, all of which are supremely well-realized by the effects work (who can claim the MVP trophy for both Laid to Rest films). Hallís camerawork is a little shaky and chaotic, but he knows well enough to capture all of that glorious grue, so Laid to Rest 2 ďsucceedsĒ in the same way part one did--it delivers plenty of stuff thatíll appease gorehounds who will be more than willing to forgive the numerous other shortcomings.
I suppose this does manage the interesting twist of bringing back a minor character from the original film in the form of the guy (Thomas Dekker) who survived alongside Princess. Heís back and gets entangled mostly in aiding the cops during the procedural portion of the movie, which feels like CSI: Chromeskull, right down to the rental cop detectives and ludicrous use of technology. Just as Michaelsís turn as Jess can be summed up as ďcute blonde show spends most of the movie half-naked,Ē Dekkerís character can be reduced to ďangry, brooding young man in a hoodie.Ē You might recall that the first film introduced him singing a song that insisted that ďsexy bitches are [his] favorite kinds of bitches,Ē and heís shockingly not further characterized here.
This is a series thatís basically horror junk food for me; I canít even pretend to be all that shocked that a couple of slashers have ended up being dumber than a bag of rocks since these at least try to bludgeon you with the force of, well, a bag of rocks. This one teases a third film that will take Chromeskull to a place where a guy can not only get away with wearing a chrome mask, but also carrying a large butcher knife in public. Iíll be there, and youíll probably be there too, but, in the meantime, check out part 2 on Image Entertainmentís DVD or Blu-ray. Since Iím a cheapskate, I went with the former, which was solid enough. The transfer's fine, and the 5.1 track is nice and dynamic, plus there's a good amount of special features. Among them are bloopers, deleted scenes, a trailer, a "Creating Chromeskull" feature, and a "Jump to a Kill" thing that'll let you experience everything this movie has to offer within minutes. There's also a commentary with Hall, Green, and co-writer Kevin Bocarde to round out the package. I fully expect that Laid to Rest 3 will finally reveal just who or what Chromeskull is and why he enjoys killing girls, and I fully expect it to be an obvious letdown thatíll involve mommy issues stemming from his childhood, thus betraying any sort of real innovation laying at the center of these films. Part 2 epitomizes this by dangling aspects that hint at something different, but itís ultimately just another movie with effective kill sequences and not much else. Rent it!
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