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observation notes: Killers 2: The Beast

One of two Asylum sequels subtitled The Beast (the other being that to 666: The Child), Killers 2, the sequel to the first-ever Asylum production (and also the first feature collaboration between current Asylum partners David Michael Latt, who directed here, David Rimawi, who produced, and Paul Bales, who wrote), opens with Kim Little's character, the only survivor of the first film, now involuntarily committed (ha!) to a mental asylum (double ha!) on account of the horrors from film one of which authorities think she is the sole cause.

As is customary with mental asylums in horror movies - and often in real life - the place is rife with corrupt doctors and orderlies and the patients are more dangerous than one's own psychosis. And speaking of psychosis, the longer KL has to stay in this terrible place, the more she has to suffer the particular horrors of institutional life - teamed with the remembered horror of her recent trauma, teamed with the actual horror of hitmen associated with the drug lord from the first film infiltrating the asylum and attempting to kill her - the weaker her convictions of her innocence, her sanity, grow. I don't want to give too much more away, because this really is a thrilling journey, rich with subtle and not-so-subtle terrors hiding around every corner, lurking behind every shadow.

Kim Little is unbelievably good in this as a sort of fractured Alice in the opposite of Wonderland - sick, crazy, delicately desperate and deceptively dangerous. I've given pretty good marks to Ms. Little in most everything I've seen her in, but this thus far is my favorite of her work. Other cast highlights include D.C. Douglas (Titanic II, Scarecrow Slayer), who plays a frighteningly confident/boyishly professional/naively arrogant doctor, Steven Glinn (The Source, Shapeshifter) as "Jim," the macho, debaucherous, goateed orderly and grade-A prick whose death you long for, and Melissa Renee Martin as a suicidal hot-chick patient.

Overall I found this film to be more thrilling than the first, an all-around cleaner, crisper outing. Kim Little grew a lot as an actress between the films and it really shows, as she carries this with frenetic and frighteningly realistic aplomb. David Michael Latt, who directed the first film as well, also progressed as a director; there aren't as many lighting tricks or claustrophobic framings but still somehow this film feels more confining and menacing than the first, stark instead of atmospheric, more intimate, face-to-face with the madness, and yet still eerily institutional. The scenes where KL's losing her shit were especially well shot, I thought, a kaleidoscope of light and sound and focus and shadow that swirl together to create a truly hallucinatory and maddening impression of a descent from sanity.

The script is the final part of this puzzle, and, like the lead actress and direction, it's gotten much, much better. Bales took an admittedly flat backstory not his own and pulled from it an intense, witty, sharp, shocking, brutal and vibrant scenario with some real choice dialogue that manages the impossible task of adding levity to a most unfunny situation. And he throws in a disproportionate amount of hot chicks for a mental asylum, which only leads - naturally - to a pretty bitching shower catfight.

Bottom line, the promise of the first film is more than fulfilled by this, the second. One of the better asylum-set (notice the lack of capitalization) films I've seen, balancing nicely the delicate seesaw of inner and outer terror. I count this one as "highly enjoyable." Quote me on it.

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