Shock-O-Rama Cinema // 2007 // 70 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // March 28th, 2007
Hell hath no fury like a blah blah blah.
Love, betrayal, murder, sex and a budget of eight rubles.
Howard (Kevin Shinnick) is unhappy in his marriage. Even though he's married to a woman who looks like B-movie queen Debbie Rochon. His wife, Margret (Debbie Rochon) wants to make the relationship work, but Howard has pulled away, unwilling to recognize that his wife his hot and he's a fat slob.
Margret suspects that Howard might be having and affair and it's not long until his suspicions are proved correct. Enter Sadie (Julian Wells), a blonde seductress who spends a remarkable amount of screen time topless. Sadie has Howard wrapped around her little finger, and the two hatch a plan to bump Margret off so Howard could inherit her wealth. But unbeknownst to Howard, there might be more behind Sadie's scheme than he thinks -- and, unbeknownst to everyone else, there's a centuries-old curse kicking around that will spell doom for anyone who messes with Margret, a direct descendant of a trio of witches.
Skin Crawl is marketed as a horror film, but it would be more accurately described as a juiced-up, occasionally bloody Lifetime movie-of-the-week. Or, to lend it a tad more hardcore street cred, think of Skin Crawl as a super-sized episode of Tales from the Crypt.
The first sequence, where we meet the witches and see them harassed by some colonial-era soldiers and so on and so forth, made it look like the rest of the film was going to play out as yet another half-baked horror movie. Actually, the horror elements are shuffled off until the final 10 minutes as the majority of the film is devoted to the shenanigans of horny, greedy people. And believe it or not, the story is pretty clever.
The script isn't genius, but for the shoestring this film was made on, and thus the homegrown direct-to-video movies category it will no doubt find itself pigeon-holed into, writer/director Justin Wingenfield threw together a fairly interesting storyline, which is supplemented well by some novel filming styles. Wingenfield will tell a portion of the story, then jump back and repeat that segment, but peeling back some of the layers of his narrative and revealing plot elements and characters that totally change the direction of the plot. It sounds like a gimmick, but Wingenefield manages to make it work here. The story itself isn't rich, and really ends up being boilerplate CSI mystery-of-the-week grist, but the success here is in the method, and that's executed quite well.
Again, however, don't expect a horror movie. The much ballyhooed curse doesn't come to fruition until the very end and even then the bloodshed is restrained. The high point of the gore: Sadie pukes up a bunch of earthworms. The film runs only a few minutes north of an hour, so if the plot irks you and you're itching to get to the Karo syrup you won't have to wait long.
If you are that antsy, though, Julian Wells and her breasts should keep you plenty distracted. It's become a cliché to say how an actor spends more time naked on screen than clothes, but I swear, it is true in this case -- and she's the lead actress. A case can be made to classify Skin Crawl as, well, a skin flick, purely because of the amount of time Wells spends unclothed and in bed with some dude. Much of the film's exposition actually takes place following some sort of intercourse and Wells carries on her conversations letting it fly in the wind. Add to that the constant flashbacking and you've got an exposed-breast to clothed-breast ratio heavily favoring the reveals of the nipple. Seriously, this is desensitizing nudity Paul Verhoeven would be proud of.
Dodgy full frame and a mediocre 2.0 stereo for the tech specs, buttressed by cast and crew interviews, a solid director's commentary and trailers for the extras.
Skin Crawl will disappoint horror fans, but a clever little story and a ludicrous amount of nudity may be enough to salvage the experience for most.
The accused is found guilty of discarding all self-inhibition.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Shock-O-Rama Cinema
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 70 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Director's Commentary
* Cast and Crew Interviews