• Skinned Deep (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: July 20th, 2021.
    Director: Gabriel Bartalos
    Cast: Les Pollack, Aaron Sims, Kurt Carley, Linda Weinrib, Liz Little, Warwick Davis, Jason Durge
    Year: 2004
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    Skinned Deep – Movie Review:

    SFX artist Gabriel Bartalos’ 2004 feature film directorial debut opens with the Rockwell family - mother Gloria Jean (Linda Weinrib), father Phil (Eric Bennett), son Matthew (Lee Kociela) and teenaged daughter Tina (Karoline Brandt) – on a family vacation in rural California. After passing by an unusually mellow sheriff (Jim O'Donoghue) at the scene of a car wreck, they wind up in the middle of nowhere with a flat tire. The only thing nearby is a rundown old shop run by Granny (Liz Little) who invites the Rockwell’s to her home for dinner.

    The oblige, but a short time after they sit down for dinner and meet family members Brain (Jason Dugre), Plates (Warwick Davis) and a guy with a bear trap for a mouth, Tina is the only one left alive. Brain, who has a giant brain for a head, takes a liking to her and talks Granny into letting him keep her, but she thinks only of escape. As Tina does what she can to survive and figure out how to get away from all of this, a gang of geriatric bikers called The Ancient Ones arrives and makes trouble for Granny and her strange family.

    From here, things get gory and very, very weird.

    Set to some musical selections by none other than Captain Sensible of The Damned, Skinned Deep feels like a mix of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Mad Max and Eraserhead without ever really ripping any of those established classics off. Skinned Deep, like Bartalos’ later 2013 film Saint Bernard, has definitely got its own unique vibe and atmosphere, and the sense of unpredictability that runs rampant through the film makes it a lot of fun to watch.

    The cast are pretty entertaining. Leading lady Karoline Brandt is pretty solid here, making you wonder why she didn’t appear in more movies. Her character occasionally does the dumb things that people in horror movies occasionally do but her performance is committed and believable. Linda Weinrib and Eric Bennett as Tina’s parents aren’t in the movie very long but they’re funny when they are. Allen Richard plays one of the aged bikers, a tough guy named Shakes, and he steals a big scene here that we’ve intentionally left out of the plot synopsis as it shouldn’t be spoiled. The real stars, however, are the bad guys. Liz Little is great as Granny and Jason Dugre, who at one point runs naked through Times Square, is fantastic as Brain, sympathetic at times but just so plain weird. And of course, there’s Warwick Davis, the diminutive actor probably best known in horror circles for playing the lead in the Leprechaun films. His character is named Plates because he’s really into… plates. It’s pretty great seeing Davis leap around (at one point he does an amazing dance number) and use plates as weaponized discs against whoever he wants, and the guy absolutely commits to the role.

    Production design is very strong here. It’s clear that a lot of effort went into creating the sets, costumes and props used throughout the movie. Most of the effects were done practically and look great. There’s some neat miniature work on display here as well and the makeup effects done to bring Brain to life are also very cool.

    Skinned Deep – Blu-ray Review:

    Skinned Deep comes to region free Blu-ray courtesy of Severin Films who present the picture in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition presentation framed at 1.33.1 with the feature taking up just under 27GBS of space on the a 50GB disc. Shot on film and scanned in 2k from the original negative, there’s good texture and detail here. Some minor print damage can be spotted in a few scenes but otherwise, no complaints. Colors look good and the image retains an appropriately film-like appearance throughout, meaning we get a bit of grain, but it stays clean and crisp looking, free of obvious noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression artifacts.

    The English language DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track is fine. It’s properly balanced, it’s clean and it is free of any hiss or distortion. Dialogue is easy to understand and to follow, no problems here at all. Optional subtitles are offered up in English only.

    Extras start off with an audio commentary featuring Bartalos, Karoline Brandt, Jay Dugre and Al Magliochetti from Eye Candy Visual Effects. They cover how they got ahold of a branding fetishist who allowed her skin to be branded in the opening scene of the movie, shooting the movie with a lot of professional friends from the film industry, wanting to make a movie that was just going to be fun to make and to watch, casting the film and auditioning for it, some of the shop work that had to be done to create the outfits for some of the characters in the movie, where some of the props featured in the film came from, working with a live crow, putting together the effects and the set design featured in the movie, how long the makeup took to get Dugre into character, coming up with the logo for The Ancient Ones and shooting a nude scene in Times Square (at one point they call cinematographer Peter Strietmann to talk about shooting this particular moment and what was involved with it!). They also cover, in detail, shooting the truck attack sequence and how they managed to get Davis to toss plates the way that he did in the movie. As the track goes on, they cover shooting the underwater scene, getting Forrest J. Ackerman in the movie and lots more.

    Also included on the disc is the fourteen-minute Deep Cuts, which is a retrospective look back at the making of Skinned Deep that features interviews with Bartalos and actors Jay Dugre and Karoline Brandt as well as weapons machinist Jake Lee. It’s an interesting piece with Brandt noting that she was only seventeen when she made the movie and how interesting an experience it was for her while Dugre talks about having to run naked through New York City with a giant brain prosthetic on his head. Lee goes over some of the design work for the film and Bartalos obviously offers up his thoughts on all of this as well. Fun stuff. It covers some of the same ground as the commentary track but it’s still very worthwhile.

    A twenty-two minute archival ‘Making Of’ featurette is also here. It starts off with a fun gag involving the exploded arm prosthetic from the movie before Bartalos explains what he was trying to go for with the movie. From there we get a feel for what it was like on set, how the different cast and crew members became involved in the production, what it was like shooting the film on 16mm, what it was like on set and more. Lots of great behind the scenes footage in this piece. Warwick Davis is interviewed here in his Leprechaun makeup about making the movie!

    Aside from that, we get a trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection.

    Skinned Deep – The Final Word:

    Skinned Deep is a trip! As funny as it is startlingly bizarre, it’s a wildly entertaining mix of horror, black humor and surrealism and Severin has brought this film to Blu-ray with a great presentation and some nice extra features as well.

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