by Barry Meyer
A collection of terror shorts that miss the mark, but show some gruesome promise
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There’s a class of filmmakers that I mischievously refer to as “fanboys.” This is a group of movie lovers who simply love watching movies so much – usually cult favorites – that they wish to Zeus that they had made the damn things themselves. And sometimes they get their wish. When they get down to making their own movies, these fanboys usually tend to crib off their favorite cult hits heavily – duplicating scenes, copying dialogue, the whole kit and caboodle.
Then there is this other group of fan/filmmakers which I don’t have a name for, who also adore films, usually on a more intellectual level, but their filmmaking skills lack the passion of their fanaticism. Maybe they’re the art house wannabes… or maybe I still need to come up with a good name.
“My Skin” (the title film of a collection of shorts) opens speciously at the scene of a brutal murder. While the bound and bloodied body of a woman lay lifeless on the floor, a gaunt faced man appears busy covering up the evidence. We soon discover that the eerie looking fellow is not the woman’s killer, but is Death himself, devising a devilish plan to make sure the real killer will pay for his crime.
Where “My Skin” comes in after the crime, the second short “Scream for Me” jumps right in on the middle of the mayhem. A young upstart maniac hovers over his latest helpless victim, a shaply young dancer, sadistically squeezing the throat of the young woman and spewing insults and vile dribble as her life is being drained from her. Then, suddenly, as she’s about to drift off to death, he releases his stranglehold and revives her, demanding that she not die before she screams for him. But wait! What is this? Another serial killer bursts into the room, and he is now, in turn, torturing the first killer. Not to be outdone, the even more sadistic killer is giving his novice friend a tip or two about how to instill real murderous torture upon a victim – this he does by stripping down and sporting a gargantuan spiky dildo that even Atilla the Hun would shy away from bringing to as sword fight.
The trilogy winds up with the victim’s side of the crime with “Human No More.” A scruffy detective absorbs every last word of the killers confessional recordings (which the audience has to endure the entirety of), all the while, some specter (I’m supposing that’s what it is) darts about the steam pipes on the grungy basement ceiling. When the tape is over, the detective sits in the dismal room and openly contemplates revenge and the cruel world in which he lives in, wondering if any good can come of all this violence that he witnesses.
All of the films feature the same gracelessly eerie looking actor, Tony Simmons, whose chiseled cheeks, jutting nose and piercing eyes make him a natural for the horror screen. If only his acting were as crisp as his features are scary. Most of the time, Simmons slowly articulates his lines in that cliché manner of a literate gentleman killer that for some reason has become the stereotype for creepiness. But luckily practice seems to have done him good, for by the third film he was able to shed the clichéd creepiness and give a more rounded, charismatic and moving performance.
As for director Christopher Alan Broadstone, I’ll give him one thing – he certainly isn’t shy about not pulling any punches. His desire to take that flagrant step over the proverbial line in the PC sand of good taste is the one thing that makes me want to see what he is capable of showing us in the future. But, as for the present, his storytelling skills need to catch up to his willingness to shock. There’s clearly a lot of dark and dirty deeds piercing that brain of his, and like Clive Barker (whom I’m assuming is a hero of his) Broadstone likes to show his audience just how sick and depraved the world can be – and make them all just love it! The problem with these shorts, though, is that virtually everything takes place in the mind’s eye – like in a book. There’s a lot to contemplate, clearly, since the characters all have so much to tell us, that I can’t help but wonder if these stories wouldn’t be better suited having a life in print. With the narrative being more introspect, these sordid tales may be more pleasing if we could get inside the characters heads more. The thing is, with so expository dialogue being flung at them, the audience may tend to wish something else would happen. Something scary or horrific. Mind you, when something does finally happen, there is bloodcurdling elation to be had by gore fans.
Barry Meyer is a film critic and proud father living in New Jersey.
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