Will someone, for the love of God, please explain all the fanboy love for the Laid to Rest series to me? I watched the first film when it came out awhile back and I just didn’t get it. Sure, it had some nice practical gore effects, and I appreciated just how far the filmmakers were willing to go to bloody up the screen, but, beyond that, the flick felt like little more than a series of murder set pieces tied together by a throwaway script. The headache-inducing Avid vomit editing and Saw-style aesthete made it that much more of a grueling experience to sit through, and, while the film’s open-ended conclusion left viewers with myriad, the only question I had was how the flick got made in the first place.
With the sequel, Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2, we pick up where the last film left off. After dispatching Chromeskull, The Girl (Allison Kyler replacing the first film’s busty Bobbie Sue Luther) and Tommy flee to the next town, where Tommy sets up The Girl in a motel and ventures out for food. Unbeknownst to them, Chromeskull isn’t just some loon with a mask and shoulder-mounted video camera – he has his own serial killer support staff led by Preston (Brian Austin Greene), who orders his still-breathing boss back to headquarters for emergency surgery while he follows after the two survivors. Preston finds The Girl, and brutally murders her, leaving Tommy to answer to the police. We then cut to a lengthy title sequence in which Chromeskull’s face is surgically reconstructed in gruesome fashion before jumping ahead three months later, when he’s recovered and ready to kill again. While Preston feels his boss is no longer capable of carrying out his “duties”, the conniving Spann (Danielle Harris) presents Chromeskull with a new victim – Jess (Mimi Michaels), a legally blind young girl whom Spann has hand-picked for her employer. Chromeskull ventures out, captures Jess, and then takes her back to a specially outfitted factory of terrors where he can spend some time with his prey before doing her in.
In the meantime, Preston is busy trying to track down Tommy, who has become something of a paranoid shut-in in the months since his first encounter with Chromeskull. He finally tracks him down at the local police station where Tommy is helping the cops in their search for Jess. Preston brings Tommy back to the same factory where Jess awaits her fate, but the once-loyal employee is developing a taste for the kill, and feels his boss isn’t up to the task. Spann alerts Chromeskull to Preston’s insolence, and the stage is set for a showdown between the master and the student, with the lives of Tommy and Jess serving as the prize.
Writer/Director Robert Hall must have had a truly grand vision for the Laid to Rest franchise from the get go as the first film did hint at the fact that Chromeskull was more than your garden variety killing machine. His gadgets and gizmos, sleek ride, and dapper appearance made him look like more of a psychotic super villain than a typical slasher, so I guess it makes sense that he’d be part of something bigger and more nefarious than an isolated killing spree. The problem is, like the first film, Laid to Rest 2 addresses this with a series of “cool ideas” hastily thrown together in an effort to lend some sort of backstory to Chromeskull. We’re given a convoluted “shadow society” subplot that may have worked had Hall been working with a much larger budget and a better script, but, as it’s presented here, it’s just a ludicrous and pace-destroying backdrop for a seemingly endless volley of admittedly well-executed kill scenes.
Performances range from wooden to slightly less wooden, save for Greene who, for some reason or another, just doesn’t get the credit he deserves as an actor. I like this guy, damnit (he was really good in Domino and The Sarah Connor Chronicles), and think that, if given a decent role, he could elevate himself to at A-list status. Harris, meanwhile, looks pretty while continuing her rapid descent into DTV hell, while Dekker twitches a lot. Still, it’s really hard to pan performances with a script this bad. Not only is it full of holes and half-thoughts, it’s just plain stupid. Take, for example, the scene in which a female police officer arrives at the abandoned factory where Jess is being kept. She peeks in the door and sees a CRMSKLL license plate lying right in front of her on the floor. Let me reiterate that; in the SECRET factory where Chromeskull plans to kill his next victim, there’s a fucking CRMSKLL license plate lying in the UNLOCKED entrance for anyone to see. And it’s not on a car. It’s ON THE FLOOR IN THE ENTRANCE OF THE SECRET FACTORY KILL HOUSE! Despite knowing they’re looking for a killer with said license plate, the police woman shrugs and walks away to call in and check what the EXACT spelling on the plate is. She doesn’t say “Hey boss. I’m at the abandoned chrome factory and I found a CRMSKLL license plate. I’m not sure if it’s the same spelling, but better send back-up anyway”, nor does her boss question as to why she’s asking about it. He simply tells her what it is, and she goes back to make sure it’s the same plate (and is summarily carved up). And why in god’s name did they send a 115 pound female detective to the potential lair of a killer who they know singlehandedly wiped out an entire police station alone? There’s got to be more than three cops in this city, no? And why was the license plate even there in the first place? Is his organization that sloppy?
“Hey, Bob. Where do you want me to put this CRMSKLL license plate?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Just chuck it on the ground in front of the door. That’s as good a place as any.”
The script is full of moments like this and, quite frankly, it’s just lazy screenwriting in a film more concerned with viscera than good storytelling. Still, if you want blood, Chromeskull’s got it.
Image releases Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2 on Blu-ray in a full-frame transfer that’s crisp and a clean for the most part, but gets a bit noisy in darker scenes. The film was shot using Canon DSLR cameras, and the quality is really quite astounding, especially when one considers one of these cameras can be had for less than $3 grand (cinema quality lenses not included, of course). If there’s anything positive I can take away from Chromeskull, it’s the fact that it’s a good demo reel for what many consider the future of independent cinema. The accompanying 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio track is a mixed bag, with somewhat muffled dialogue competing with ear-splitting shrieks. Bass is surprisingly tame and hardly noticeable, while surrounds are put to decent use with some convincing atmospheric effects scattered across the sound field.
Extras include A Cut Above – Creating Chromeskull, which is a serviceable making-of doc featuring assorted cast and crew interviews, but I’d have loved to see more about the use of the DSLR cameras (hey, I’m a photographer with a Canon capable of shooting similar quality video! I want to know more, damnit).
We’re also treated to an audio commentary where, once again, everyone involved is so bloody positive about the film and their experiences working on it that listening to it made me feel like a complete heel for not sharing in their enthusiasm.
Also included is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Blooper Reel, and a Jump to a Kill feature which, to me, is the best way to watch this one.
I really disliked Laid to Rest, and, while I didn’t think it was possible, I actually disliked Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2 even more. While the first film was a mostly pointless and poorly acted slasher, at least it moved along at a decent clip. This sequel literally drags from the get go, bogged down by a thoroughly ridiculous conspiracy subplot and a woefully bad screenplay. Fans of the first film will more than likely be entertained (although even the most hardcore Chromeheads could be put off by their “hero’s” silly backstory), but anyone looking for anything more than a series of killings held together by a dull and paper thin plot should look elsewhere.