Ratings Key



★★★★
= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
★★★
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Skinned Alive (2008)

... aka: Eat Your Heart Out

Directed by:
James Tucker

Depressed, lonely insurance agent Jeffrey (Jack Dillon) lives alone in a huge house he inherited from his late mother. Striking out with every single woman he tries to ask out, Jeffrey becomes desperate enough to start arranging "dates" with women from an escort agency. None of them want anything to do with him once services are rendered, but things change once the mysterious Pandora (Melissa Bacelar) shows up at his doorstep. The two have an immediate emotional connection, but Pandora is harboring a deep, dark secret that will test their blossoming love... she's actually a cannibal who enjoys eating people alive! Will Jeffrey still stand by his new girl once the truth is revealed? Or will their union be cut short by thug brother of one of her victims (Joshua Nelson, also the writer), who's looking for revenge.

I went into this with no knowledge about the plot or any of the people who made it and was surprised to see some genuine promise here. It's entertaining and a much more ambitious film than most micro-budget horror films I've seen. There's plenty of blood and nudity, the acting from the leads is OK, some of the dialogue is well-written and, compared to other films in its budget range, the sound and photography aren't too bad. The main thing I had a problem with was the fluctuation in tone. The film starts out being a dark and serious character study with an almost somber mood, but once Pandora reveals her secret to Jeffrey it becomes a little too camp for my tastes. Some of the humor works, but other times it falls flat or seems out of place.

The filmmakers also toy around with keeping things ambiguous. We're never sure what exactly Pandora is. Is she a non-supernatural cannibal who just happens to crave human flesh, or some kind of monster? A vampire? A zombie? A demon? I liked this aspect of the film because slapping some kind of label on the character isn't even necessary. The film also introduces the idea that Pandora doesn't even exist and Jeffrey is just going mad, but that possibility is pretty much a waste of time since we've already spent part of the film watching "The Stalker" tracking down Pandora. The concept also isn't supported by the ending.

Jeremy Selenfriend's gore fx are pretty good (especially a decapitation at the end) and there's a great Nine Inch Nails-style song over the opening credits, plus small roles for Jeanette Bonner as Jeffrey's concerned sister, Alan Rowe Kelly (I'LL BURY YOU TOMORROW) as a madam, Erika Smith (BITE ME!) as a prostitute and Peter Stickles ("The Lair") as a victim. It's set in New York City and has some decent aerial photography of the city.

Worth a look.

★★1/2

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