You might expect me to harp on about 1993’s ‘Skinner’, starring Ted Raimi along side Traci Lords, feeling like an 80s throwback. You could also be forgiven for assuming that, with such a blatant name inference that this would also fall into the splatter sections of the video store (if there were such a thing any longer). The truth is, ‘Skinner’ is neither of these things, yet I wouldn’t describe it as typically 90s either.
‘Skinner‘ is part slasher, part noir, its dark in themes and thoroughly grimy in context.
The plot follows the titular character Dennis Skinner (Raimi), a nice guy by day, absolute nutter by evening. He’s introduced to us as a real nothing, chirpy but completely devoid of stature, ambition anything but the predator we see him as at night. Unbeknownst to his new housemate – played by Rikki Lake of talk show fame no less – ‘Skinner’ has a bit of a nasty habit of dicing up hookers, skinning them and then wearing their faces; he’s good at getting away with it to, seemingly having all those closest to him completely confounded despite murder happening right under their noses. All fooled, except one, the troubled yet driven Heidi (Lords), a junkie whore who survived, albeit maimed, one of Skinner’s assaults.
The plot, along with the rest of the film is actually quite had to quantify, as, splitting the film into individual components probably wouldn’t review particularly well. The plot is essentially just following his typical normal life, bit of banter at work, some awkward conversation with his land-lady and frequent run-ins with the aforementioned landlady’s husband. Then by night, we watch Skinner running around after helpless prostitutes like a complete maniac, with the occasional interjective monologue from Heidi, Skinner’s unlikely nemesis. It’s entertaining, but namely because it’s quite absurd in parts and through its obscurity, quite difficult to see where it’s going.
The pacing of the movie is far from lightening, but some decent writing and expressive (dare I say Argento-esk) use of a bold colours, create a moody atmosphere which always make the film interesting to watch. Even when the film seems to be going through the motions, Heidi’s scathing, yet surprisingly deep, critique of Skinners habits and persona resonate through even the most mundane scenes, whilst Raimi’s portrayal of the chameleon-esk Harold Skinner is always engaging. It’s clear that director Ivan Nagy truly intended to elevate his antagonist well beyond the splatter movie stereotypes.
In some ways the tone is similar to McNaughton’s ‘Henry: Portrait of a serial killer’, with night scenes where we watch the more predatory version of Skinner matching the maniacal chaos of anything Tobe Hooper could put out.
Another plus point for the film has to be the gore and the practical effects. Infrequent, but strong is the best description, but boy is it strong in parts. Indeed, if this film had been made in the 80s, showing some of the mutilation scenes alone in the trailer would have had hordes of fans flocking to add the film to the collection. As with most OTT splatter/slasher effects they bridge the line between looking horrifyingly gruesome, and also a bit rubbery and gooey, but still, in a film whose tone elsewhere is very downtrodden and understated the stalk/slash and kill sequences really pack a punch. I don’t want to ruin much of the experience, but let’s just say ‘Skinner’ lives up to his namesake and the camera isn’t at all shy.
Overall, there’s not much else I want to say about this little gem of a film. I’ve not seen the original releases – according to PR it wasn’t ever available in the UK, and this was reviewed form 101’s latest restoration release, and it looks ace. It’s a film which sits somewhat tentatively between genres. Sleezy enough to appeal to fans of trashy-euro cinema, gory enough to recommend to fans of slasher/splatter cinema; yet at the same time, it’s familiar feeling for all fans of extreme horror in general. Its not going to top anyone’s lists (I don’t suspect), but I think the obscurity of the film and the quality of this release is certainly worth people checking out for something (likely) new to watch