• Skinner (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: February 19th, 2018.
    Directed by: Ivan Nagy
    Cast: Ted Raimi, Traci Lords, Ricki Lake, David Warshofsky, Richard Schiff
    Year: 1993
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    Skinner – Movie Review:

    In Ivan Nagy’s 1993 slasher picture, Ted Raimi stars as Dennis Skinner. On the surface, he seems like a pretty normal guy – nice even. Of course, this isn’t the case, and kindly housewife Kerry (Ricki Lake) learns this shortly after Dennis shows up to answer a ‘room for rent’ ad that he say in the shop window down the street. Kerry is married to Geoff (David Warshofsky) and we learn early on that their marriage is on the rocks - he's never around. She’s not happy and it doesn’t look like Geoff is going to do anything to change that. Dennis has clearly got a thing for Kerry, and the attraction would seem to be mutual.

    See, Dennis is a custodian by day but at night, he’s got a penchant for killing and skinning prostitutes in the dimly lit back room of the factory where he’s employed. Why does he do this? So that he can sew their skin into a suit and dance around like the fucking maniac that he so clearly is, that’s why. Everybody needs a hobby. It turns out that this stems back to Dennis’ past, where his deranged father made him sit still and pay attention while he performed a post mortem on the corpse of his mother, something that would clearly leave some pretty serious scars on psyche of anyone. Dennis also kills off a co-worker named Earl at one point, parading about in his skin and mocking his speech patterns. This scene is NOT politically correct by any standards, it's flat out crazy that they did this in the first place.

    The third piece to this bizarre puzzle is the presence of a mysterious black-clad woman named Heidi (Traci Lords). She’s a junkie dressed in a long overcoat, black sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat. She hides her physical scars well as she stalks Dennis, hoping to find him at the end of the scalpel she carries with her. She, in turn, is watched in her hotel room by a creepy guy named Eddie (Richard Schiff).

    Skinner is pretty out there even by slasher movie standards, but damn if it isn’t an entertaining way to kill an hour and a half. A big part of what makes this one work as well as it does is the cast. Ted Raimi (of Lunatics: A Love Story and Intruder) is awesome here, able to switch between ‘cute, sane guy’ and ‘guy dancing about in someone else’s skin’ pretty effortlessly and surprisingly convincingly. Raimi carries the movie and is hands down the best part of the film. His performance alone makes it worth seeking out. That said, Ricki Lake (of Serial Mom and Hairspray) is really good here too. We feel for her. She’s nice. Ricki Lake always seems nice in real life and she seems nice here too, even if she shouldn’t be playing around on her admittedly dickish husband, played well enough by David Warshofsky. Not to be outdone, Traci Lords (of Cry Baby, Not Of This Earth and, of course, a bunch of now very controversial adult films of the mid to late eighties) is very well-cast as Heidi. She does the ‘mysterious stranger’ thing well and cuts an impressive figure all decked out in black the way that she is for the bulk of her screen time in this movie.

    Ivan Nagy paces the film well and ensures that there’s enough happening to hold our attention throughout. Some strange directorial flourishes and quirky use of color and light keep things visually interesting, occasionally using some primary colored lighting to nice effect and harkening back to a classic ‘giallo’ look. It’s pretty twisted stuff and it does get plenty gory but never, ever lacking in entertainment value.

    Skinner – Blu-ray Review:

    Severin Films presents Skinner completely uncut in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.78.1 widescreen and taken from a new 4k scan of the original 35mm negative and it looks excellent. Given how much of this film takes place at night, it’s a revelation to se how much cleaner and clearer this transfer looks than the previous DVD release that came out via Simitar (which was a full frame, open matte presentation and shorn of over eight-minutes of footage). The framing here looks fine, though there's a moment at 26:01 where you can clearly see a crew member on the right side of the frame. Where scenes previously looked muddy and blotchy, things are now vastly improved. This is still a very dark looking film but shadow detail fares much better than before and there’s a lot more detail and depth to pretty much every frame. Color reproduction looks great, skin tones are fine and the transfer retains the natural film grain while at the same time appearing without much in the way of print damage to note.

    DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo tracks are provided for the feature in English and in a dubbed French option with optional English SDH provided. Both tracks sound fine, with good balance, clear dialogue, strong musical presence and an absence of hiss and distortion.

    Extras are primarily made up of a few featurettes, starting with A Touch of Scandal, which is an interview with late director Ivan Nagy that runs just over twenty-minutes. Here, in this archival piece, he speaks about how he wound up moving to the United States after growing up in his native Hungary, his film studies at UCLA, getting his start in the business by directing some early low budget features, making the move to television work and more. In Under His Skin, leading man Ted Raimi speaks on camera for fourteen-minutes about his thoughts on the character that he plays in this film, his thoughts on the film itself, what went into preparing for this particular part and some of the other genre roles he has had over the years in movies like Shocker, Blood Rage, and Lunatics: A Love Story. He also talks about the KNB Effects guys and about how convenient it was to shoot this movie as the main location was only a black away from his apartment at the time. Ted always comes across as a super likable guy, just very laid back and friendly with a good sense of humor, and that comes through in this piece as well. Oh, and he also addresses the whole 'running around impersonating a black man while wearing his skin' scene, which really hasn't aged well at all. Screenwriter Paul Hart-Wilden is up next in the seventeen-minute Bargain Bin VHS For A Buck segment that finds the man talking what influenced him to write this particular story, his fascination with serial killers, research that went into the story and some other interesting quirks and details about how the movie turned out and how the filmmakers added the 'Earl scene' on their own, noting that he didn't write that part. The final featurette is Cutting Skinner, an eleven-minute interview with editor Jeremy Kasten who speaks quite candidly about director Nagy’s somewhat seedy personal life, what he had to do to get the film completed, why Lords’ character is named Heidi, meeting and smoking weed with Nagy and more! He doesn’t hold back, it’s pretty interesting stuff.

    Severin has also uncovered almost twelve-minutes of outtakes and extended footage from the notorious flaying sequence. This is sourced from a rough looking timecoded tape but better to see it here in less than perfect condition than not at all.

    Rounding out the extras is a trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection. Severin has also packaged this release with some reversible cover sleeve art.

    Skinner – The Final Word:

    Skinner, in its uncut form as presented here, is a pretty nasty mix of slasher movie tropes, giallo-esque twists and depraved murder set pieces highlighted by some really solid acting from the three leads and an impressive visual style. Severin’s Blu-ray offers a huge improvement over the lousy (and long out of print) DVD edition in terms of presentation quality and throws in some interesting extra features as well. Highly recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized Skinner Blu-ray screen caps!