Skeleton Crew (2009 movie) review…

Skeleton Crew (2009 movie) review after the break…

Skeleton Crew (2009 movie) review…

There’s an old saying that nothing is ever new, you just haven’t seen it done this way before.

“Skeleton Crew” is a 2009 movie about an independent (“indie” for the slang-impaired) film crew shooting a movie based upon the fictitious exploits of a mental health doctor who used patients in his “snuff” films (films where people are actually killed). While scouting out scenes in the actual mental health hospital where the killings took place, the crew finds a hidden area where the movies were shown. The director becomes obsessed with the snuff films available and, on cue, the production takes on a deadly new twist as the film crew begins to become decimated one at a time.

Anyone looking for originality in this film best look elsewhere. Right from the start, the film borrows from a variety of sources, both obscure and obvious. The director wears a t-shirt reading, “John Carpenter’s The Thing.” A mental health hospital has been the setting for… How many movies? Session 9? House on Haunted Hill? Films about snuff films… 8MM? Films about movies that can “possess people”?

A film with this type of derived checklist needs a plot convention that will set itself apart from similar efforts. Unfortunately, this film does not make any such attempt and this lack of effort truly undermines any impact that this film has upon the viewer. There is no suspense because we know that the killer is the director. We know that we’re not watching a movie-in-a-movie as the clear intention is that the characters are truly suffering. We know that the villain is unbeatable because of the clear supernatural element that is demonstrated several times in the film. Without a level of uncertainty, there’s not a lot to entertain the viewer or keep them interested – If we know that the villain is unbeatable, why continue watching? If we know who the killer is almost from the start of the killings, where is the suspense?

What is truly puzzling about this film is WHY the director becomes obsessed and then possessed concerning the snuff films that are recovered. The director never appears to be under duress – A call to the producer is successful, telling him that the funding for the movie is secure. Why is that scene even in the film? While there is some tension on the set of the film, is that tension any worse then any other film where there are long hours, cramped spaces, sparse resources and large egos? You would think that a smaller production would have less friction – Fewer people who likely know each other and work better together. There’s no sense in the film of foreboding trouble, no “the actress is on the verge of leaving” or “there’s no more money for the production.” In the movie “Session 9,” for instance, one of the asbestos removers snaps under the pressures of the workload and, after a fatal incident at home, goes on a killing spree at the job site knowing that he has no future in the “real world.” There is no sense of that here – The director just becomes possessed without a substantive reason for being possessed.

There are plenty of goofs in this picture that remain unexplained – What happened to the nurse and other cast members in the “movie-in-a-movie”? Were they the lucky few who wrapped their roles and walked away before the carnage started or was that a snafu of the script? What would’ve the director done had neither person in the cylindrical room fought each other? Why didn’t the survivor of that struggle simply smash the lights with the weapons already provided for them? How were all of these death traps, some quite elaborate, set up so quickly?

Imagine if this film had, as it’s main angle, a mystery as to who was performing the killings. Perhaps Bruce, the aging actor portraying the doctor, finally got fed up with increasingly inferior roles (how many actors like going from working with James Cameron to an indie film with a low budget)? Perhaps the director, who can’t handle all of the pressures of creating a film and finally snaps when told that the funding has just been cut? What about the lead actress who slept her way into a role only to see her fortunes reversed by the cancellation of the film or perceived jealousy of other women on the set?

Imagine a film where the main angle is the discovery of the snuff films itself and how the watching of those films changes the attitudes of the filmmakers present. A director devoted towards the legend becomes disillusioned when confronted with the horrors of actual snuff films. An actress tired of sleeping her way into roles. An actor depressed over a now moribund film career. How the act of watching the exact same snuff films has a dramatically different impact on different people – Some become more obsessed while others become surprisingly withdrawn and turn back towards productive lives.

“Skeleton Crew” offers nothing new to those who have already seen several of the movie’s components – Movies about snuff films, movies about creepy mental health institutions, movies about directors who snap and kill their movie crews. How ironic and bold that, in one scene of this film, a character states to the effect, “It’s like we’re in a bad horror movie.” I’m glad that they were the ones who said it and not me.

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