Monday, October 31, 2011

Skew (2011): or, Tale of the Tape

October Horror Movie Challenge, Day 30!

Amateur videographer Simon (Rob Scattergood) embarks on a week-long road trip with his beer-swilling best friend Rich (Richard Olak) and Rich's girlfriend Eva (Amber Lewis) to attend another friend's wedding. Simon's girlfriend L.T. (Taneal Cutting) was also supposed to go, but cancels at the last moment, leaving Simon a third wheel. As the friends travel cross-country, tensions mount due to Simon's obsession with recording everything they see, and also due to his growing romantic obsession with the lovely, bra-poor Eva. Soon triangular tensions are the least of their worries, though, as Simon begins to notice strange images through his viewfinder: a hotel clerk and a gas station attendant both show up with their features strangely skewed on the tape, and later both wind up dead, the victims of seemingly random violence. As the video anomalies become more common, the body count rises, and Simon fears his camera is the instrument of a terrible supernatural curse. Still, he feels strangely compelled to keep filming, putting his friends in greater danger with every push of the "record" button...

I hadn't heard of Skew (2011) before reading a recent review on the excellent site Planet of Terror, but I'm very glad I did--dispite obvious similarities to the Ring/Ringu movies (cursed characters there also show up distorted on video), director Sevé Schelenz manages to make his "reality horror" film something fresh and intriguing. The main genius move is making our point-of-view character a flawed, possibly unreliable narrator--in addition to experiencing the supernatural visions along with him, we also slowly piece together his own neuroses and strange desires, which enhances the film's texture and deepens the resonance of the images we're shown. Schelenz does a great job revealing his character through visuals and interactions with his friends, giving the audience enough to stay interested without seeming unnaturally expository.

The cast helps things a lot too, as Scattergood, Olak, and Lewis have a lot of natural chemistry. Watching their relationships develop and change is often just as interesting as the next creepy set-piece. Which is not to say Schelenz skimps on the creepiness--the skewed faces of innocents and our knowledge of what that means generates some suspense, and Simon's periodic visitations by the ghosts of those who died of the curse are shocking and goosebump-worthy. The director also uses the medium to good effect--scenes where Rich and Eva borrow Simon's camera reveal a lot about them all, and when Simon rewinds and rewatches some of his footage at the end, it adds another possible explanation to the strange happenings. Or maybe not--I found the final image (no spoilers) puzzling, but still got an inexplicable shiver out of it, which is perhaps a testament to how the film gets under your skin.

Thanks again to Planet of Terror for turning me on to this hidden gem. It's streaming on Netflix instant, so if you're looking for a creepy little story for your Halloween viewing, you could do a lot worse. 2.5 thumbs.
"I think this shirt really brings out my eyes."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the shout-out and thanks for checking out this indie gem!

I've watched it twice now and there are some subtle clues that I missed the first time around. No doubt there will be varying opinions as to the 'meaning' of the ending.

Regardless, this is one slow burning creeper. The hotel room scene with the clerk standing in the corner. EGADS!

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