Where the Skin Lies Movie Review
Written by Joel Harley
Released by Signwriter Films
Directed by Michael Boucherie
Written by Michael Boucherie and David Boucherie
2017, 91 minutes, Not Yet Rated
Frightfest world premiere on 26th August 2017
Tristan Beint as Edward Stirling
Amelia Bennett as Rainbow Pope
Simon Rivers as Jaan Smith
Louise Williams as Elise Stirling-Marsh
Six trauma survivors, bonded during group therapy sessions, decide to celebrate their friendship by renting out a luxury cabin in Scotland. What was intended to be final closure on their traumas turns into something completely different as mysterious circumstances begin whittling their number down. The only thing getting closure might just be coffin lids if the gang don’t get their act together…
It’s a cabin in the woods movie without the woods – a slasher film without the slasher. Noticing that each of their number has a, uh, numbered tattoo, the group begins to suspect something may be afoot when the tattoos begin counting down to something. One gory mishap later, and they’re left trying to figure out the rules of the game. It’s not long before they begin turning on each other, forming alliances and re-enacting elements of Lord of the Flies.
A high-concept game of death between six distinct, mostly interesting characters, this is ambitious stuff for a low-budget British horror film. Giving the usual Hillbillies or zombies a miss instantly makes this isolated cabin movie more notable, and director Michael Boucherie (together with co-writer David Boucherie) commits in full to his characters. The cast, daytime-TV-level at best, are all guilty of letting down the writing at times, but their soap opera backgrounds serve them well when it comes to the screaming and the arguing.
The Boucheries resist the urge to explain away too much, and both the nature of the threat and much of the group’s history is left purposefully vague. The film’s obvious cheapness doesn’t extend to the gore effects, and there are several moments of well-done self-mutilation and splatter to enliven the repetitious shouting and scheming. One particular tattoo removal serves as the film’s big set piece; a quietly chilling slice of body horror that’s up there with the big boys for sheer nastiness.
The unusual story and quality of filmmaking make for a film that’s a cut above the rest, but deeply ingrained indie flaws remain all the same. The acting is the film’s biggest hurdle, and it’s hard to get past the early getting-to-know-you sequences. There’s not a likeable character amongst the group either, which makes their plight difficult to care about. And while there’s a stain of black comedy running through the film’s veins, it still takes itself too seriously, leading to a handful of laughs which are less than intentional. And the less said about the stupid toff caricature the better.
Still, this is a treat for fans of low-budget British cinema. The Boucheries have carefully constructed a strong mystery thriller with a central concept that manages to rise above the wooden acting and frequently annoying characters. For all its flaws, it does a good job of getting in under the skin.