• Sheep Skin

    Released By: MVD Visual
    Released On: May 10, 2016.
    Director: Kurtis Spieler
    Cast: Jamie Lynn Bagley, Bryan Manley Davis, Ria Burns-Wilder, Zach Gillette
    Year: 2014
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    The Film:

    A business man named Todd is working late in the office after calling his annoyed wife to tell her that he won't be home until well after dinner. The reason for her annoyance is valid; she suspects that Todd has been stepping out on her, leaving her with the burden of looking after the house and the kids by herself. Within seconds of hanging up the phone, Todd validates her suspicions when he starts aggressively hitting on Dylan, the new temp in the office. Dylan is having none of that, though, telling Todd that she's only there to drop off the mail for him, not go for a drink to learn the ins and outs of the corporation. Rejected, Todd turns his attention to a mysterious envelope, opening it to find an even more mysterious piece of correspondence....WE KNOW WHAT YOU ARE.

    Confused and lonely, with no leggy temp to make him feel better, Todd decides that he'll head home after all, with the cherry on his crappy day of a sundae appearing in the form of an out-of-service elevator that diverts him to the stairs. The stairs are dim and just a little bit creepy; and suddenly creepier still as a pig-masked assailant suddenly appears below him with a hypodermic needle! With nowhere to run, the businessman is quickly subdued and drugged, regaining consciousness tied to a chair in an empty warehouse. Empty, that is, except for his captors, a punk rock band called the Dick Punchers; which include ringleader Schafer, a sadistic maniac named Boston Clive, and none other than Dylan, the temp that Todd tried to seduce. Demanding to know why he's been kidnapped, Schafer spells it out in a not so simple fashion; Todd has been sleeping with Schafer's sister for the past year. Not only that, but Schafer's sister was carrying Todd's baby...and now Schafer's sister is very dead, the victim of a brutal mauling and dismemberment by what the police have determined was a large mammal, possibly a bear. Furthermore, Schafer has determined that a similar murder that occurred in the same place at the same time that Todd was on a trip is also the result of the kidnapped businessman.

    To cut to the chase, Schafer and the rest of the Dick Punchers believe that not only is Todd the businessman a murderer, but that he is also lycanthropus...a werewolf! To prove the theory, the Dick Punchers subject Todd to a number of tests...looking for wolf bite scars on his pudgy naked body, rubbing him with silver bullets to see if he reacts, beating the holy hell out of him, and finally, deciding to wait for the full moon to rise to see if he'll transform. With Todd passing a number of the standard tests, cracks start to appear in the unity of the Dick Punchers; have they lost their minds? Is Todd just a cheating businessman? Can they let him go, or should they see the plan through? Boston Clive can't wait to cut him into pieces, Schafer's resolve begins to fail, and Dylan may have just lost her mind. And with a nosy security guard nosing around and Todd's suspicious wife tracking his phone, the Dick Punchers are going to have a whole lot more dicks (and at least one vagina) to punch before the night is through.

    Make no mistake, Sheep Skin is not a masterful, high budget piece of cinematic wonder. It's sub-par production standards are evident in the first scene, with a strange colour balance, oddly placed props, and a perpetual "wavy cam" that have got amateur hour written all over them. Dialogue is low, dirty, and difficult to hear, and the warehouse scenes appear to be lit entirely by a set of tripod construction halogens with sound provided by the on-mic camera. Direction is somewhat sloppy with the writing being about the same; the film goes around and around a bit more than it has to. In an 80-minute film, redundancy is not something that should occur, but it's definitely an issue in Sheep Skin.

    All of that being said, Sheep Skin is not terrible. Its strength is one that puts it ahead of most of the pack; the acting in the film is not bad. Some of it is actually even decent. Michael Schantz as Schafer, though he hiccups here and there, is convincing in his menace and confusion, demonstrating a genuine character arc. Zach Gillete as Clive can actually be accused of a good performance. The rest of the cast vary from okay to not so okay, but none of the performances here are bad. The written dialogue may not be Oscar-worthy, and the story may come across as uninspired, but Spieler should at least get some props for trying to do something different than the standard gorefest and buckets of blood that so many of his colleagues go for in an effort to shock. Though Sheep Skin does contain the occasional practical effect...the most prominent actually being quite good...it's light on gore, going more for suspense. While the story, dialogue, and performances are not quite enough to carry Sheep Skin across the finish line, well, at least they made a good try of it, and that's more that can be said of most. Sheep Skin is not a great film, or even a particularly good film, but it can't be short-changed by calling it bad.


    MVD/Unearthed brings Sheep Skin to DVD in a 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer that definitely shows the limitations of its budget. Though there are no glaring ugly occurrences, the use of multiple DP's and a less than desirable lighting conditions make the movie a flat, murky experience. Still, one might say that it adds to the charm, and this is far from some of the uglier messes that have made their way to DVD.

    The Dolby Digital 2.0 English Audio track is about the same, unfortunately highlighting the imperfections in the source material. The warehouse scenes, which make up the majority of the film, showcase a wicked hum from the lights or bad ground that definitely is definitely bothersome. Viewing one of the deleted scenes, where the hum is much more invasive, leads me to believe that the hum may have been EQ'd a bit in the feature, which unfortunately also may have had an effect on the vocal frequencies. As a result, or maybe due to something else completely, a good deal of the speaking in the warehouse scenes can be described as difficult to discern, and the low frequency ambient soundtrack that hovers around the film throughout the running time does not help at all. Increasing the volume is about the only solution here, which makes the hum more audible as well. Picky listeners are not going to be a fan of the audio.

    There are no subtitles provided.

    A number of extras have been provided for the film as well, the first being the option to view the feature in black and white. An introduction from Writer/Director Kurtis Spieler explains that the idea for this option came about while he was working on various filters and other colour timing for the film, deciding that it looked pretty awesome in black and white.

    A Deleted Scene (3:18) also contains an intro by Kurtis Spieler puts the scene in context and gives the reason for chopping it.

    Behind The Scenes (11:04) features more with Spieler, discussing how it was decided to create the werewolf creature in the film, especially on a limited budget. Spieler discusses the various ways that they contemplated bringing the creature to the screen before settling on what they did. The downside to this extra is seeing the costume/prosthesis used for the monster....less is definitely more.

    Sheep Skin Short Film (11:52) is the 2007 short film that Spieler shot that contains similar themes from the film.

    Dick Punchers Music Video (2:49) features a song related to the film by a punk band called the Dick Punchers. Low production crappy punk rock, it nonetheless contains lyrics such as, "If you're a werewolf, I'll punch you in the dick"...I may be paraphrasing...that are actually pretty amusing. A collection of production stills provide visual accompaniment.

    Finally, a commentary by Writer/Director Kurtis Spieler and Producer Nick Papazoglou walks us through the process of making Sheep Skin, from the set props and locations, as well as character motivation. A lot of technical details regarding the making of a low-budget horror film are also included, and Spieler dominates the very wordy conversation without resorting to describing the on-screen action.

    The Final Word:

    In the mountainous pile of indie horror crap being rained down on us in the era of consumer HD cameras, "Not Bad" is fair praise. Sheep Skin is...not bad.