Sunday, November 6, 2011

What's So Scary About Chromeskull? Socioeconomic Horror

Regular readers may know that I'm a huge fan of the original Laid to Rest, which I gave a huge, slobbery anus-kiss of a review that you can read here. I was so excited about this franchise that I decided to buy the sequel brand new, sight-unseen, for full price. Coming from someone who almost never pays more than $3 for a DVD, this is no small thing. Thing is, I buy virtually all of my movies used, so when I come across a really good indie horror film, I get somewhat guilty that the creators never saw a dime of my money. To show my support for Robert Hall, I paid ten times what I did for the original Laid to Rest.  As you can see, going into Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2, I was doubly invested: emotionally and financially. This is a recipe for sky-high expectations of the sort that can lead to the most seething hatred. So here's my review: I didn't hate it.

As you've probably guessed, I didn't love it either. In fact, I've spent the last several weeks trying to sort out exactly how I feel about the film. It seems to be a series of contradictions. For instance, the story is much more complex than the original, but the movie still seems little more than a showcase for brutal kills. There's more characterization than in the original, yet by and large, the characters were less interesting. It is a much bigger movie than the first Laid to Rest, with a huge body count and spectacular kill sequences, yet the movie seems cramped compared to the original, most of it taking place in Chromeskull’s customized “playspace.” And those spectacular kills seem both more and less brutal than those of the original, going too far over the top and making them cringe-worthy for all the wrong reasons.

The beauty of the original Laid to Rest was its simplicity. It was a pretty straightforward chase movie with a masked slasher pursuing a beautiful girl. There were hints that much more was going on behind the scenes, but it never got in the way of the pure adrenaline rush of the pursuit. It's scariness came from the unknown quality of the killer. In that way, it is more like John Carpenter's Halloween, while Chromeskull L2R2 is like Rob Zombie's.

Chromeskull is scary for an entirely different reason, and one that is much less immediate than it's predecessor. While the original taps into our most primal fears of pain and death at the hands of a predator, the sequel taps into our growing collective fear of the power of the elite few. It can be read as the reflection of our anxieties in the Occupy Wall Street era.

No, I'm serious.

In this installment, we find that Chromeskull is far from a solitary madman with a couple of shiny hunting knives. He is, in fact, backed by an army of assistants who clean up after him, make sure he never gets caught, and even bring him back from the brink of death with a team of top-notch physicians. Talk about health insurance. He also has craftsmen who design him custom weapons and "playspaces" in which to hunt. In the original, there was a glimmer of hope. If you can just survive long enough to make him melt his own face off, you can beat Mr. Shiny-Noggin. In the sequel, there's no escape. You elude Chromeskull, his people will find you eventually. That's the kind of power only money can buy.

All this behind-the-scenes stuff undermines the immediate terror by giving you too much information about Chromeskull and essentially killing the unknown aspect of the character. But isn't this always the case with horror sequels? Thankfully, Robert Hall knows not to give everything away and doesn't offer up much in the way of a backstory. In the most effective scene of the movie, Chromeskull's assistant (Brian Austin Green) taunts his boss's latest victim by saying, "You know what kind of sick shit he's going to do to you?" Then he leans in close and whispers the answer in her ear, leaving it to our imagination. Robert Hall knows what a fine line he's walking with this one, and thankfully, he understands the importance of the unknown.

Did I mention that Brian Austin Green is awesome in this movie?
Don't let the goofy animated gif fool you.


  1. Having painted himself into a corner by calling the first film Laid To Rest rather than Chromeskull, I guess we can now expect a number of confusingly titled sequels, like the "Rambo" franchise, that make a mockery of titular continuity.

  2. Hmmm... yeah. Will the next one be called Chromeskull III? Personally, I'd go with Chromeskull 2: Laid to Rest 3. And then next one would be The Return of Chromeskull 2: Laid to Rest 4, followed by L2R5. Then I'd reboot the franchise simply as Chromeskull. Then call the sequel to the reboot Laid to Rest.


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