SEPTEMBER 10, 2009
When I interviewed Wes Bentley for P2, we talked a bit how important it was to make his character sympathetic in the first few minutes, for the people who might turn the film on someday without knowing anything about it (as opposed to people in the theaters, who knew damn well his character was the bad guy). Those folks are probably the target audience for Skeleton Crew, which spends so long trying to trick us that by the time they get around to it, I've already invested more interest in THAT story than the real one.
See, having the DVD in front of me, I knew this movie was about the film crew of a horror movie getting killed in their location (a creepy abandoned hospital). But it takes a full 22 minutes to get to that point (up until then, we are watching the movie they are making), which is far too long. Because then we have to re-introduce our characters, set up the real plot, etc. By the time the actual killing begins, I had already lost most of my interest.
It doesn't help that the fake film is less cliche than the real one. The film they are making seems to be a Finnish remake of Autopsy (sweet!), but the film Skeleton Crew is, at its heart, yet another meta-horror movie in the vein of The Back Lot Murders, Cut, Scream 3, Urban Legend 2 (which itself began with the movie-in-the-movie, but they were wise enough to pull back the curtain within 5 minutes), and probably a half dozen others I've forgotten. Worse, it's rife with tired Scream humor, with characters talking about the rules and saying things like "Why should you be worried, you're the obvious heroine!" or whatever. The least they could do is actually invert these rules, and kill "the obvious heroine" in the next 5 seconds, but no. There's some novelty in hearing NEWER films getting referenced (Saw and Hostel are brought up), but not enough to change the fact that this particular brand of humor has long since grown stale.
Also there is precious little suspense to the proceedings. We know who our killer is, which deflates about half the fun of a non-sequel slasher right from the start. But the kills are presented so matter of factly that you might actually miss them, and he never bothers to stalk anyone or whatever, which makes them even more dull. Near the end he starts getting creative (love the one where he puts a camera on a sloped dolly track, letting the camera (which has a large knife sticking out under the lens) roll down and into a guy), but it's too little too late.
Plus, I never got if the guy was actually possessed by the place (or the zombie-ish ghosts that pop up in a single shot), or if he just went crazy. Either way it's sort of a Shining riff, so it's just another "seen it before" deal. There is definitely some supernatural shenanigans going on though - at one point our remaining characters find a Moviola with the film Skeleton Crew playing on it. They even fast forward and find the scene that they are actually in (you know, like in Spaceballs - "When will THEN be NOW?"). But this is not used for any meaningful effect, and the finale comes down to a standard (and brief) chase, sans any sort of supernatural-based elements.
And I HATED the ending. I'm all for downer endings, but only when they are earned. This one is simply nihilistic - our heroine shoots herself in the head rather than get killed by the guy, but she survives and he blowtorches her to death. The rest of the movie is sort of light, so I'm not sure what possessed (heh) them to end it on such a grim tone.
Any highlights? Well, the few previously mentioned creative kills are nice, there's a 10 second lesbian scene that comes out of nowhere (presumably placed in the film to jog folks like me back to full attention), the location is suitably creepy, and the HD looks better than usual. Plus, it takes a full hour and six minutes before someone makes the obligatory "This is like a bad horror movie!" joke; possibly the only instance in the film where something that took too long to get to was a good thing. And Bruce Campbell fans should get a kick out of the blowhard actor named Bruce who is constantly name-dropping the bigger names he has worked with as he slums in this low-budget production. But all of these little moments are simply not enough to change the fact that this is a generic, horrendously structured, and largely uninvolving slasher. And it's a pity, because I like the Finnish.
What say you?