Thursday, April 23, 2009
Skeleton Crew (2009)
At first glance the Finnish horror film Skeleton Crew, being released through Lightening Media in July 2009, looks to be like just another “torture porn” flick. Upon watching it, though, you might be pleasantly surprised to discover that it has an entertaining story and some campy wit to elevate it above the typical brainless hack-and-slash films.
In the 1970′s in a backwoods mental institution, a doctor began filming himself and his staff torturing patients. They lit them on fire, cut off appendages, stabbed them, hit them with mallets, sawed them…pretty much anything you can think of. The doctor really got into making his snuff films and even started going by the name of “The Auteur”. He was eventually captured by the police, but to this day his complete collection of snuff films was never found.
Now, a film crew has returned to the same mental institution to shoot a horror film about the doctor’s exploits. One day, they discover The Auteur’s macabre screening room and his complete films. The director of the film becomes obsessed with The Auteur’s films and demands more and more realism from his actors. When they don’t give him the realism he wants, he decides that the only way to make a good film is to incite REAL reactions from his cast and crew…by torturing and killing them on-screen!
This really was a surprising film! It had me engaged from the opening scenes, which were actually a film-within-a-film, through to the campy but no less brutal “director’s cut” of the film! There are so many funny, witty lines (“I hate overacting”) that I was wholly entertained throughout the entire film. The characters were also well-developed and anyone who has had any experience in film can relate to the bitching and moaning the cast and crew do behind the scenes! There’s the stereotypical “experienced” actor who insists on giving an over-the-top performance despite the director’s insistence to tone it down, the actress who sleeps with the director for a shot at a bigger role, the constant battle between the boom operator and the lighting guy, etc. This film is just right on and funny about so many situations that occur when filming a movie!
The story was written by Tero Molin (who also co-directed) and Teemu Molin and not only do they deliver a witty, self-aware script, but they also manage to keep the pace moving swiftly along. There were no lulls or boring bits in the film, which is really a credit to the writers. Both the dialogue and the action kept the film going at a steady speed. They also had some pretty inventive ways to dispatch the victims, so kudos to them for making the death scenes feel inventive and fresh!
The film is low-budget, but the direction by Tommi Lepola and Tero Molin is fantastic and you soon forget you are watching an indie film. They used the dank, dark mental institution to their every advantage and created a very foreboding, labyrinth-like setting. The dark, crumbling walls are menacing from the first scene and the fortress-like building is imposing. They made the mental institution a character itself!
The actors, for the most part, do a wonderful job. I really loved how most of them played their “actors” in the film they were shooting and how differently they acted when they were out of character. I really thought David Yoken was fantastic as Bruce, the “experienced” actor of the group who still insisted on giving an over-the-top, Vincent Price-style performance! Steve Porter was also wonderful as the director. When he turned into The Auteur he delivered some great lines that, had it not been for his stellar performance, could have been overly corny. His deliver ensured they were just campy enough to wink at the audience!
As for the gore, well, the film definitely delivers. There are some definitely shocking moments in the film and some great death scenes. My personal favorite involved hot stage/film lights being used to burn someone to death! There were many other excellent death scenes that won’t soon be forgotten, like amputation, death-by-drill, bludgeoning with a baseball bat studded with nails, and on and on!
Skeleton Crew is a fun, entertaining and gory film that definitely caught me by surprise! This Finnish film is definitely worth a look when it is released in July!
Available from Amazon!