Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 26, 2020)
When I think “horror”, the names Connie Stevens and Dean Jones don’t leap to mind. Better-known for light comedic fare, they go against type with 1965’s Two on a Guillotine.
Decades earlier, Duke Duquesne (Cesar Romero) enjoys success as a stage magician, one who specializes in macabre acts. These involve his wife Melinda (Stevens), as she becomes the “victim” who suffers violent fates.
Eventually matters go awry, and Melinda vanishes. This traumatizes Duke, and he abandons toddler daughter Cassie. She grows up with Duke’s aunt and knows little of her absentee parents.
This changes when Duke dies and leaves his estate to an adult Cassie (Stevens again). The catch? Cassie must spend seven nights in Duke’s mansion, an abode equipped to terrify.
Fans of The Flintstones will recognize that plot, as it strongly resembles “A Haunted House Is Not a Home” from the animated series’ fifth season. Given that the episode predated Two by only a few months, I doubt any direct influence existed.
Not that Flintstones invented the concept, of course. As I note in the review of “Home”, the story about a need to survive time in a haunted house was still already by 1964, so the makers of Two didn’t need to borrow from Fred and Wilma.
Does Two bring anything new to the genre? Sure: a willingness to embrace romance far beyond what one would normally expect from this kind of story.
As I mentioned at the outset, Stevens and Jones seemed like odd choices for the leads in a horror tale, but as I watched Two, their casting made more sense. That’s because Two spends surprisingly little time with potential terror.
Indeed, much of the film’s first half comes across more as a romantic comedy with mildly creepy overtones. The whole thing sets up with the standard “meet cute”, as Cassie initially loathes Val Henderson (Jones).
Though Cassie changes her mind quickly, Two also sets up a trite obstacle in the relationship when Val lies to her about his career. He pretends to work in real estate to get close to her, whereas he’s actual a journalist in search of a story. This means the inevitable angry break when Cassie learns the truth.
A little of this romantic comedy material would go a long way, but Two indulges in this thread far beyond what we need. We spend seemingly endless scenes with Val and Cassie as they enjoy a night on the town, for instance.
Why? I don’t know, as these sequences would get tiresome even in a more traditional romance. Given that we go into Two in search of scares, the tedious “happy couple” segments seem all the more problematic.
During its third act, Two more actively embraces horror, though it seems like too little, too late. Most viewers probably already lost patience with the film well before this point, and the potential scares don’t feel worth the wait.
To put it mildly, Two fails to provide even the most rudimentary thrills or terror. Everything comes across as stale and cliché, without any form of ingenuity.
Toss in an inevitable “twist ending” – one familiar to fans of that Flintstones episode I mentioned – and Two becomes a waste of time. Pretty much nothing here works.