The Horror Review: EST: 1999

 Skeleton Crew (2009)

 Film Title: Skeleton Crew Year Released:  2009
Reviewed By:
Movie Website:  Click Here
Overall Stars: ***1/2 Scare Factor: **1/2
 

   Mental institutions are inherently creepy (have you seen SESSION 9? Enough said.), but I’d been burned with a good trailer and an interesting premise before by Lightning Media with THE DEVIL’S GROUND. SKELETON CREW is a whole new ballgame, and despite a few glitches, may very well prove to be one of the most memorable horror flicks of 2009.

   Set out in the middle of nowhere—or, in this case, an isolated bit of countryside in Finland just beyond the Russian border—SKELETON CREW chronicles the film shoot of a horror film called “Silent Creek” that’s all about this crazy doctor guy from the 70s who started calling himself “The Auteur” and making snuff films starring his unlucky patients. Well, when some of the “Silent Creek” sound guys come across those original snuff films, everyone is properly disgusted—except the director, Steven, who begins to see the newfound film bounty not so much as a terrifying spectacle but as more of an … inspiration.

   I’ve been watching a bunch of horror movies lately, both straight-to-DVD and big screen fare, and out of all the new stuff I’ve seen, SKELETON CREW is the hands down winner when it comes to atmosphere. They got it exactly right in terms of look and feel, combining just the right amount of run-down dilapidation, tight hallway claustrophobia, and stifling windowless-ness to drag us all in to a gritty, grimy mental hospital reality. Also, for a bunch of pretty much unknowns, the acting is good, and even in the roles that require over-the-top, B-movie campiness, it never feels like too much. The whole premise of snuff films becoming a pseudo-demon, possessing directors and such, is original and lends itself to all sorts of gruesomeness, and even though the kills are borderline blood-porn, they’re well done, clever, and don’t dominate the film, balancing nicely with mood and suspense.

   My main complaint is that, every once in a while, the film veers into being too aware of itself—I’m all for paying homage to the greats, but with a director wearing a shirt from THE THING and unnecessary references to films like SAW and HOSTEL, I was even more put off when, near the end of the film, we get to hear the discussion about the “rules of horror movies.” We’ve all heard these reminders and warnings, in one form or another, in films like SCREAM and BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON, but by now they’re getting a little overdone. Note to future filmmakers—we get it. You love your genre … so do we. We don’t need to know that all of your characters are all scary-savvy and know who’s most likely to die (though it was funny to hear the slate-cracker girl bemoaning her caught-on-tape lesbian romp as some sort of mind trick by the ghosts possessing the director as just another example of why they’re being forced into a horror formula, a friendly poke at the genre’s often obvious pandering to boys looking for totally unrelated to the plot girl-on-girl action). Horror movies don’t need to keep pointing out that they’re on to themselves.

    Overall, SKELETON CREW starts off with a bang, pulls us in to its surreal, isolated world of blood and film and dusty popcorn machines, and doesn’t let go until the end. Definitely one of the best so far this year—and it’s from Finland!

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