Friday, March 16, 2012

Review: Skew (2011)

“On July 19, 2005 three friends went on a road trip. They never came back.”

Director: Sevé Schelenz
Starring: Rob Scattergood, Amber Lewis and Richard Olak
Writer: Sevé Schelenz

I know I’ve used the term before, but I’m beginning to regret it. The term found footage really gives the audience a set of expectations that really aren't fair to some movies put under this banner. Case in point is Skew, which was made before the explosion of the ‘found footage’ movies in 2005 but has found release last year. It is a shame as I can already see audience members being frustrated even though the movie is very clever in execution.

Focusing on three friends going on a road trip to a wedding, things begin on a weird tone as Simon (Scatergood) greats Richard (Olak) and Eve (Lewis) with a camera, and intent on filming everything. The opening minutes paint the movie in a more skewed psychological manner, than with a strict horror vein. What we see, gives us a voyeuristic insight into Simon’s mind and it’s a tad unsettling. I myself was thoroughly creeped out by the character, which is a brave move, seeming he is the camera operator and the centre of the story. Once we get into the more supernatural elements of the movie, the reality of the situation becomes further skewed. It’s impressive the level of unease Schelenz is able to generate from a very no thrills approach to everything. It does make me excited for future endeavours, especially those that would have a bigger budget.

Acting wise we get some decent performances with Amber Lewis being the gem of the three. Her performance is layered, and at first seems to be a little cliché, but eventually evolves into probably my favourite character of the three. She is kind and understanding even when she’s worried as all hell and has a bad feeling about the whole trip. Richard Olak is fine in some scenes, normally the mellower ones, but when he gets angry I sometimes had problems believing he was actually angry. Finally Scatergood was also fine as Simon and in his more talkative scenes he really does show a great spread of emotions, however the stronger elements of the character come through with the visuals we see and so these fascinating and creepy character traits are thanks to Schelenz more that Scartergood.

Visually the movie is very basic, which is good considering this is supposed to be a road trip and not a mammoth production. The special effects are rather simple and yet effective, and there are some genuine scares to go along with the tense atmosphere. With the conceit set up of those other than the core three that get filmed die, it does become a weird horrific waiting game as we know these people are doomed. Yet it’s not just the obvious things that make this movie, but the things that are woven into the movie that are hard to pick up the first run through with this movie. It shows an attention to detail, coupled with a plan to elevate the movie from your run of the mill horror movies.

And so we come finally the story of the movie. Its obvious Seve Schelenz as a precise idea what he wants to be shown, and yet the presentation of the story is both the movies strength and the ultimate weakness of this movie. People will watch this movie and adore everything, the reveal at the end will get them talking, and theories will be talked about days after. It may seem simple to begin with but to really delve into the richness of the story you have to do the work yourself, this movie doesn’t hold your hand and doesn’t serve up answers easily. Yet at what point does a film move from being subtle with its answers and just being frustrating? Thinking of this movie in reference to the mass audience, I can see people getting to the end and hating the movie.

The reason why I find this a shame; is there is great talent at the core of this film, Seve Schelenz is a director to watch out for, but if he creates more movies this hard to really crack open, then the general audience probably won’t take to his movies. But hey that’s not exactly a bad thing, Terrence Malick makes movies that I need to take a mental sledgehammer to, and I still love his work. Just I would love to see Seve Schelenz’s brand of horror, opening in cinemas and doing well. This is the type of horror fans really need to get behind.

So do I recommend this movie? Yes but with the warning that attention needs to be given to this film. Also if you are a horror lover and like the voyeuristic nature of found footage films (honestly can someone create a better term?), then you need to watch this movie. If only to support a more psychological type horror and an up and coming director.

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