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Monday, January 4, 2010

The Saga of SEE NO EVIL: An Insider's Perspective

"I have this script I want you to look over," I can remember my boss at the time telling me. "It's the first official project from WWE Films. A horror movie, with Kane as the star. Not too sure if I like it, lemme know what you think, they're looking for input upstairs."

It's no secret that I worked for seven thoroughly trippy and unforgettable years at WWE, but I very seldom, if ever have written about it here. This particular story, however, bridges the gap to the relevant world of horror, and it's something several readers have requested I talk a little bit about. Yes, folks, I was there at the genesis of See No Evil, WWE's horror vehicle starring Glenn "Kane" Jacobs, one of its roster of wrestlers (or "sports-entertainers" as they obsessively insist they be called). Jealous?

As a dutiful employee, I took that script home and gave it a good read. As it would turn out, that read would be the only thing "good" having anything to do with the script. To say that it was pretty bad would be the equivalent of saying that Hitler had a bit of a problem with the Jews. No, this was not merely bad. This was downright unfilmable by my estimation, a student-level film that on the page, read like it had the potential to make Ishtar look like Battleship Potemkin.

At the time, it was known as "Eye Scream Man" (scout's honor!)--a script penned by a gentleman who had previously been fired from the WWE TV creative team for not having sufficient chops to chronicle the weekly conflicts of perpetually angry men in hot pants. As I sat there at home alone, turning over page by page of the printed-out manuscript on my dining room table, I thought to myself, "This is getting a theatrical release? This is going to be our first project?"

This was not merely a movie that deserved a direct-to-video release. This wasn't even worthy of a direct-to-video release. A completely predictable, by-the-numbers, utterly derivative slasher knockoff that read as if written by someone who had seen a bunch of horror flicks in the 1980s and thought, "Hey this is easy! I can write this!" Cardboard, cliche characters who get killed off in exactly the order and manner you expect. A killer who brings absolutely nothing new to the table, an amalgamation of influences ranging from Jason to Hannibal to Norman to The Hills Have Eyes, yet somehow managing to possess not even the slightest spark of originality or uniqueness. Not only was this something I would never pay money to see, I'd be hard pressed to watch it on the CW Network with the rest of my cable offline.

What was I to tell my boss? I knew it was going to be an abomination. So did he, so I guess I didn't have to be too worried about his reaction. So I was perfectly honest, and said I thought it was laughably bad. Too bad really, since the whole project was conceived as a way to kick off WWE's film division, and built around one of their most successful characters, Kane.

I had no problem with Glenn, the guy who played Kane on TV. Can't say we were anything resembling friends, but we had a passing acquaintance, and he certainly would recognize me in the locker room. Cool guy--we had some interesting conversations. Fellow English major. Had a peculiar aversion to Hemingway. But overall, a nice guy who was effective in his wrestling role.

And I can see why they wanted to build a horror movie around him, since his in-ring persona was among WWE's most horrific. For those who aren't loyal Kane-enites (I didn't make that up), the so-called "Big Red Monster" was, the story goes, burned as a child in a fire he set himself, to kill his own parents. Years later, he returned to WWE to seek vengeance against the half-brother he blamed for his feelings of inadequacy, the Undertaker. At first he wore a mask, and was clearly an attempt to create a wrestling version of Jason/Michael Myers. But even after he ditched the mask, he cut quite the fearsome figure.

But it just didn't translate on to the page. And when the movie was actually made, it didn't translate to the screen, either. I can still remember the look on my boss' face when I informed him that the man WWE Films had selected to helm the picture was Gregory Dark, a music video/porn director. And while Mr. Dark was one of the more notable smut auteurs, this didn't strike me as the best selection right out of the box.

Finally, in the early spring of 2006, weeks before the finished product was set to hit theaters, we got our office screener. Watching it in the office with my co-workers is another experience I'll never forget... If you've ever had a friend with an incredibly ugly baby, you might be familiar with the feeling. We all sat there, watching it, pretending it wasn't terrible, trying our darnedest to make the most of it. If the Emperor had no clothes, then we were his happy admirers.

I don't need to go too far into the actual movie itself. If you've seen it, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, you're luckier than the rest of us. Looking for all the world like a Sci-Fi Channel production, it was easily among the most tiresome and ineffective horror films of recent years, fully earning its place on my recent list.

We didn't bother attending the actual "premiere" of See No Evil, since we were on deadline with WWE Magazine. Probably didn't miss much, since it was mainly a gathering of company employees and their guests--as well as rabid fans who would watch a sexual hygiene instructional film if it had the letters "WWE" on it--made to seem like an actual movie premiere.

I did, however, manage to make it to the afterparty, held in the ballroom of a nearby hotel. And I have to say, it was fully worth it, if only to see the hulking Kane uncomfortably hob-knobbing with company brass, all dressed up in a suit and tie and everything. I'll give it to him, Glenn was a real trooper.

Such was the saga of WWE's first foray into moviemaking (unless you count 1989's epic No Holds Barred). And in hindsight, maybe See No Evil wasn't so bad, seeing as how the company's next flick would be the Showgirls of action movies, The Marine--a movie that was written to star Stone Cold Steve Austin, but after he bailed on the company, was saddled upon its newest rising talent, John Cena. Somehow, Cena still managed to become a star...


Jason Stroming said...

Another good read! I haven't seen the movie myself, as I do have some brain cells remaining, but still interesting to read an insider's take. I think you need another blog just detailing your time in the WWE. Though one wonders how far Vince would allow it to go before sicking the lawyers on you...

the jaded viewer said...

Wow. I just assumed Vince was surrounded by screenwriters in a long board room like table and they started pitching ideas to him.

"He's gotta kill somebody by choke slamming him!"

WWE is insane inside and out.

John said...

Now I have something to watch this weekend. Seems so exciting!
Brian@Rhinehoth a New Horror Novel by Brian E. Niskala

B-Sol said...

Thanks Jay!

Jaded: Actually it was kind of like that early on the process. Vince thinks of screenwriting the same way he thinks of booking wrestling storylines.

Blueberry: Did I not make myself clear? lol

oducerproducer said...

It's funny, Kane i've read many reports on, that he's very well educated, a very smart guy. Yet he stars in this horrible mind numbing piece of shit.

Chuck Conry said...

I didn't hate No Holds Barred..Then again I haven't seen it since I was about 6.

It's been YEARS but didn't Undertaker actually admit to setting the fire himself after his heel turn?

MarilynMerlot said...

This was a great read, as I had the pleasure of working w/ Mr. Solomon myself and yes I somewhat remember all this going down and filling in for Shane the day of the premiere, which he blew off himself. I've always said Brian was a great writer and I knew he was worth more than what they gave him at WWE. It was a bumpy road for a while there for the both of us, but as you all see now, bigger things have come out of it, as we would talk about putting a blog out there. We both had other passions in life besides wrestling. Folks, that is why you have The Vault of Horror now!

B-Sol said...

Chuck: Yes, you're right! See, even I can't keep up with this crap...

MM: This is why you're awesome.

B-Sol said...

It's kind of like that. They like the idea of creating characters that they can then use across a variety of different platforms. Marketing gobbledygook.

B-Movie Becky said...

Yay! I've been waiting for you to post on some of your experiences with one of my favorite studios(heeehee).

Very entertaining! I like the ugly baby reference.

I still like the movie in all its by-the-numbers, half-assed glory.

Also, I gave you an award on my site Mr. B-Sol. :D http://horroreffect.blogspot.com/2010/01/tis-season-for-awards.html

viagra online said...

well when I saw the first movie, I say "Kaine kill people in a movie what ta f...." but when I finish see the movie I was so impressive really good movie, I await for the sequel.

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