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STUDIO: Image Entertainment
RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes
- Feature Commentary
- Making of Chromeskull
- Effects Featurette
- Deleted Scenes
- Blooper Reel
The sequel to one of the most enjoyable horror films of 2009, but with thrice the amount of stabbed bodies.
Written by Kevin Bocarde and Robert Hall. Directed by Robert Hall. Acted by Brian Austin Green, Thomas Dekker, Nick Principe, Mimi Michaels, Owain Yeoman, Danielle Harris and Gail O’Grady.
Chromeskull picks up right where the first Laid to Rest ends: with the cops showing up to the gas station\convenience store where Chromeskull confronted our heroes and got his fucking face melted off. Soon after the cops arrive, so does Preston (Green), a man who works for a shadowy organization that enables Chromeskull to not only get his killing on, but they have a team of designers that make his awesome weapons on standby. As the organization attempts to put Mr. Chromeskull back together again, Preston takes it upon himself to not only try and tidy up a few loose ends from the first film, but also get a new heroine in place for Chromey when he’s all better. Can those who survived Chromeskull’s initial rampage escape the shrewd and deadly attention of Preston or, even if they get away, will they manage to not get ground to bits under the unwavering blades of Chromeskull?
I’m a pretty big fan of Laid to Rest. The gore effects are some of the best I’ve ever seen, most of the heroes are weird as shit and the entire movie is a 90 minute chase, ending in the villain getting his fucking face melted like marshmallows over so much fire. My biggest problems with it weren’t serious enough to hamper my love too much, like how the camera seems to always be mounted on a tripod and never in the middle of the action like it should be. Or how the final girl spent the entire movie acting like she had a concussion (yes, she had a fucking hardcore head injury and partial amnesia, but that’s no excuse) and wasn’t interesting enough to carry the movie. Or how the script contrived to send the characters back and forth to the same locations a few times, as if they didn’t have enough budget or locations to pad out the already brief running time. Luckily, the first one had the aforementioned astounding gore effects, it had the awesome supporting performances of Kevin Gage (Waingro from Heat!) and Sean Whalen (Frogurt from Lost!) and it had a wonderful new boogeyman in the creation of Chromeskull. Nick Principe plays Chromeskull (in both films) as if it was the role he was born to play. His movement gracefully undulates between the precision of a dancer and the force, strength and deadliness of a larger, meaner dancer. Without him, the film wouldn’t be half of what it is and, with Laid to Rest 2, the series is twice what it was. Cuz it’s a sequel. And better.
Aside from one or two new and also minor hiccups, Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2 fixes all of my issues with the first film and manages to create enough back story and mythology for Chromey that I’m interested in learning more about the world instead of just waiting for someone to get their head sawed off. The addition of an organization that helps Chromeskull get from town to town and cleans up his messes is a fascinating idea. We never really find out is their motivation is just money or if there’s something darker and more metaphysical going down. I mean, Chromeskull gets most of his head melted the fuck off at the end of the first film, yet he gets all fixed up by the halfway point of the sequel, so I’m thinking he’s just more than a regular dude. I’m imagining the company that helps him is similar to the one that was invented for Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, where they view him as some sort of Anti-Christ\Messiah figure that will usher the world into a new age of darkness and eye socket fucking. The ideas aren’t fully formed yet, but it’s more of a mythology than most slasher flicks give their monster and I am half mast in anticipation to see where co-writer and director Robert Hall is going with all this.
The stagnant directorial style of the first film is shed completely in the second installment, with Hall favoring the handheld approach and really getting the camera into the thick of things, instead of leaving us at a bit of a remove as we might have expected. Yet, even during some of Chromeskull’s most fevered killing, it never goes the shakey-cam route, instead it treats us to some jaw dropping gore, done in some incredibly crafty one-shot takes. Hall doesn’t just raise his game up a few notches for this film, he re-invents himself whole cloth while making it all seem so effortless. After watching the special features and listening to the commentary, it’s apparent that Hall isn’t just a fan of horror, he’s a devotee, and from this moment on, his filmmaking won’t be subject to the traps inherent in a genre that can easily grow repetitive.
Hall also fixed the final girl problem by casting the lovely Mimi Michaels, who not only commits to the roll 1000%, but her character is FUCKING GOING BLIND. It’s a conceit that could easily seem like a cheap way to instantly bestow our sympathy on her, but Michaels brings a very appealing wounded strength to the role that will make guys like me (guys into fixing broken women) want to protect her from the big bad wolf. Paired with the original Laid to Rest’s survivor Thomas Dekker, they make for a team you hope will die swiftly and mercifully. It’s hard to think they’ll survive, because Chromeskull is just that badass. I mean, he has a camera mounted on his shoulder for shits and giggles. Being a filmmaker is difficult and time consuming enough without having to throw serial killing into the mix.
The minor hiccups I mentioned are mostly a result of how injured Chromeskull is in the beginning of the film. He’s getting re-faced by the doctors and convalescing for the first half of the movie, so it’s Brian Austin Green doing the dastardly deeds instead of Chromeskull. Green is great but, as counter-intuitive as this sounds, his motivations are too clear for us to be really scared by him. Chromeskull is such an unknowable enigma and the things he does are so fucking weird and evil, that he makes for a much scarier villain than Green’s Preston. But once Chromeskull is up and ready, the final third of the movie becomes such a gleeful assault on your gag reflex that Sasha Gray will want to take notes.
I really enjoyed the shit out of this movie and I can be pretty picky (and also completely inconsistent) when it comes to the things that make a horror movie great for me. Sometimes I need characters I care about, while other times I just need things to get stabby stabby choppy choppy. Sometimes the gore can feel excessive, wrong and exploitative, while other times it makes me gleefully clap my hands like Santa just gave me a box of strippers. Sometimes too much back story on our villain can kill the tension and make him less than scary (I’m looking at you, Rob Zombie’s Halloween) and other times the origin story can make the monster scarier and even more unknowable. Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2 finds all of those sweet spots for me and then cups the balls a little. I have a feeling that this series is going to keep growing and getting better with each installment and after awhile it will build Chromeskull into a monster akin to Jason Voorhees or Michelle Bachman. As long as it doesn’t become too convoluted (it won’t. Hall is smart), then we’ve got breakout franchise one or two movies away from breaking out.
The documentary on the making of Chromeskull is wonderful and heartwarming because you get to see a group of very close friends all getting to make a living by exploding brains and skinning faces, which is a hard gig to make a living at. These guys live and breathe horror and respect the genre more than most directors who are considered to be the masters of horror. The commentary track is also great, although because the documentary is so comprehensive, it tends to cover quite a bit of the same ground. Most definitely worth picking up and adding to the collection.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars