Skew Movie Review
Written by Steve Pattee
A Sleep Apnea Productions Film
Written and directed by Sevé Schelenz
2010, 82 minutes, Not Rated
Amber Lewis as Eva
Richard Olak as Richard
Robert Scattergood as Simon
You know that guy who gets control of a video camera and will not stop filming, even when you continuously ask, to the point you are ready to beat his ass? Well imagine if you were stuck on a cross-country road trip with this clown and, for a nice little bonus, everyone he films ends up dying in some sort of horrific fashion? Not the pleasure trip Simon, Rich and Eva planned, I suppose, when Simon decided to bring along his camera o' death.
Filmed entirely through the lens of Simon's video camera, Skew is along the same vein of movies such as The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity with its faux documentary style. I'm a huge fan of this type of movie because, when done well, they can really scare the hell out of you (Blair Witch), or at the very least leave you unsettled (Man Bites Dog). Skew is done very, very well.
By far, Skew's biggest strength is its writing. Writer / director Sevé Schelenz has written an exceptionally tight script that doesn't spoon feed the audience, while at the same time avoiding being overly vague of what's going on. For example, there is a scene in which Simon films a group of tourists, and their faces come across disfigured in the lens, letting you know that something bad is going to happen to them. Later, when you do find out what happened to the group, it's done in such a way where it's not annoying. Not incredibly subtle either, but definitely not in your face, like the way Insidious handled the climatic red door scene, where it immediately flashed back to the boy's drawings of the door when the father reached it. Shit like that is infuriating to me, as the filmmakers assume we horror fans are big dummies and haven't been following along. Schelenz, however, has a few instances where things could be missed if you aren't on your game, some of which I didn't even pick up on until the second viewing. I love Schelenz for this, since sometimes this beloved genre, especially in the low-budget field, gets the shaft when it comes to intelligent writing. It seems most of the time indie filmmakers go for the slasher route and gore effects for the cheap scare instead of frightening us using more subtle tactics like Skew does. For instance, the way the camera works is (thankfully) never explained, and that's okay.
I also have to give credit to the, quite simply, superb shooting and editing in Skew. Once it is established that this camera can determine the fate of someone once it sees their face, you immediately lock onto who is being videoed. Many times throughout the film, I found myself almost straining to see the face of who was in front of the lens, but the strategic positioning of the person made it all but impossible until Schelenz feels I'm ready to see. This leads to quite a few tension-filled moments throughout the flick, especially when things start to get heated between the three friends.
If there's one slight problem with the movie, it is the acting. For the most part, the three main characters do more than enough to carry the movie. Amber Lewis especially stands out as Eva. At first, I was annoyed by her character's standoffish attitude, and I chalked it up to bad acting by Lewis. However, as the film went on, there is good reason why Eva acts like she does, and it's a credit to Lewis' skill that made me immediately think something was wrong with Eva. However, the weak link in the movie is Richard Olak, who plays Eva's boyfriend Richard. Olak gets it done for the majority of the movie, but there are key scenes where he is supposed to be angry, and I never buy it. Considering what the character is going through between Simon's filming, Eva's anger, and some personal devils, Olak's anger never really comes across as it should. Some of the scenes that he needs to sell are critical for the believability of the movie, but he never quite takes it to the level it needs to be, which is unfortunate. If Skew were any other style than a pseudo-documentary, it could have been easily overlooked, but since that's obviously not the case, Olak's weakest scenes are unfortunately magnified more than what should be fair.
Yet even so, Skew does a lot of things right that can make up for the weaker parts of the film. In addition to the aforementioned writing, there are some genuinely creepy moments in the movie. At least two scenes had goosepimples rise on my arms. The last time that happened was a scene in Insidious and before that a few times in Ju-on. The point is, it doesn't happen often, so it's always a good thing when it does. One thing, if you plan on hunting down a trailer, do so well before you plan on seeing it, as the trailer shows entirely too many of the scares. You'll want to forget it by the time you sit down and watch it.
Every once in a while, a movie comes along and makes me really, really love the indie horror scene. Skew is one of those movies. It makes the most of what it has and doesn't try to force what it doesn't. If you have the opportunity to check it out, do so and tell your friends. This doesn't have distribution as of this writing, and not only deserves to be picked up, but the horror fans deserve to see it as well.