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Sunday, September 11, 2011

CHROMESKULL: LAID TO REST 2 -- DVD review by porfle

(NOTE: This review is based on the unrated director's cut.)

The tall, skinny, bald guy with the chrome skull-mask, the wicked knife, and the video camera perched on his shoulder like a parrot is back in CHROMESKULL: LAID TO REST 2 (2011) and this time, he's got back-up. 

The last we saw of Ol' Chrome-Dome (Nick Principe) back in the first LAID TO REST (2009), he was lying on the floor of a rural convenience store with his face ripped off and his skull smashed in.  Well, you can't keep a good monster down, so when this sequel picks up right where the last one left off, we see his crew sweep in, dispatch the investigating police, clean up the crime scene, and whisk their boss to an operating room where surgeons labor to save his life and what's left of his face.

It turns out that he's one of those multi-millionaires who can afford to do whatever the heck he pleases and pay people to willingly help him do it, even if that includes setting up an elaborate torture chamber for him (in his chrome-plating factory, naturally) and stocking it with kidnapped young girls.  His right-hand woman, Spann (the ever-popular Danielle Harris) even seems to enjoy her job, as does his main fixer, Preston, who is very well played by Brian Austin Greene. 

Green seems to revel in the Preston role, portraying a borderline psycho who wants to follow in his boss' footsteps by adopting the chromeskull mask and performing his first kills with an almost sexual ardor.  Not only do we get a shocking pre-titles sequence that harkens back to FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2, but we get a little of PART 5 as well with an imitator going around making like the main man.  This not only gives Green a chance to stretch his acting muscles but also gives gore fans a double dose of carnage.

Like a cross between Jason Voorhees and Mason Verger of HANNIBAL, Chromeskull, now sporting a hideous patchwork face, spends his recovery time stalking a new girl to obsess on now that Princess, his previous object of interest, is out of the picture.  Her replacement is Jess (Mimi Michaels), who has an eye disease that's slowly making her go blind.  In one of the film's first startling kill scenes, Jess' best friend is dispatched in imaginatively gruesome fashion and Jess is abucted, waking up in a casket while being taunted by Preston.  Mimi Michaels plays the role to the hilt, screaming very convincingly and emoting her buns off.

Thomas Dekker returns as Tommy (last seen driving away with Princess in the last film) and gets caught up in the whole mess again, this time coming to the aid of Jess.  They both end up in Chromeskull's factory where they witness some of the film's more elaborate kills, including a virtuoso decapitation and a thing with a spring-loaded blade cluster (a chrome-plated custom job designed by Preston) giving another character a really big smile. 

Other death scenes of interest include a nasty disembowelment (with the victim being portrayed by twins in order to achieve a tricky single take), a head sliced vertically in half like a cantelope, the impromptu chrome-plating of somebody else's head, and another impressive single take in which Chromeskull wipes out a number of cops one after the other in gruesome ways.  The gore effects are achieved, as in the previous film, by combining excellent practical effects with some subtle CGI enhancements. 

Speaking of cops, they're a pretty ineffectual bunch here.  Owain Yeoman plays Detective King, who looks a little young to be heading the precinct, and Christopher Allen Nelson (Beatrix' almost-husband Tommy in KILL BILL) is Max, his best detective.  "Best" being a relative term, since the whole squad amounts to little more than kill fodder for Chromeskull.  When they bust into the chrome-plating factory to rescue Jess and Detective King yells, "You're safe now!", I thought, "Yeah, right."  Hot female detective Holland (Angelina Armani) fares no better.

Gail O'Grady appears as Jess' mother and a grown-up Eric Lloyd (of the SANTA CLAUSE series) is billed as "Geeky Lackey."  The actress who played Princess in the first LAID TO REST, Bobbi Sue Luther, is neither seen here (her flashback scenes were reshot with Allison Kyler replacing her) nor mentioned by name (unless I missed it).  

The DVD from Image Entertainment is in 1.78:1 widescreen with Dolby 5.1 surround sound.  Subtitles are in English and Spanish.  Extras include a commentary with director Robert Hall, co-writer Kevin Bocarde, and actor Brian Austin Green, along with a making-of featurette, deleted scenes, bloopers, and a trailer.  There's also a feature which allows viewers to jump to any one of the various kill scenes.  (Stick around through the closing credits for a two-minute epilogue.)

While the film is pretty fast-paced and the additions to the Chromeskull mythology fairly interesting, I prefer the first film with its creepier settings, more enigmatic killer, more likable characters, and more involving story.  This one has none of its dry humor (Sean Whalen and Kevin Gage are especially missed) and the main girl, Jess, is winsome but not really all that interesting.  Still, CHROMESKULL: LAID TO REST 2 is head and shoulders above most of the cheap slasher flicks being churned out lately, continuing the first film's "cavalcade of cool kills" approach with a little style and a lot of enthusiasm.  And Chromeskull is definitely one of the major movie monsters of the last few decades.

Buy it at
Unrated DVD
Unrated Blu-Ray

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