Sunday 13 October 2019

Dark Eyes Retrovision #19 - Skinner (USA 1993: Dir Ivan Nagy)

Twenty eight years old this year, the 101 Films Blu Ray/DVD re-issue of the previously hard to see Skinner reminds both back in the day viewers and those new to the flick that it is decidedly, but sadly rather soporifically, batshit bonkers. Here's why.

Dennis Skinner (no, not the Beast of Bolsover, politics fans, but actually Sam Raimi's brother Ted) is a drifter with a manbag full of knives, who rocks up at a house run by Kerry Tate (Ricki Lake, a year before her role in John Waters' Serial Mom and just prior to her successful talk show series). Kerry's partner is a sour-faced long haul truck driver who's home only occasionally, so renting out her spare room to Dennis promises to provide both income and company. Sadly Skinner is a) not a huge stay at home guy and - linked to a) - b) is a serial killer, who skins his victims' bodies and then wears the epidermis himself: most shockingly, and in a scene that every single reviewer is duty bound to mention, Skinner kills and skins a black co-worker, and as well as wearing his skin also exaggeratedly adopts the dead guy's accent and mannerisms, in what is arguably cinema's least comfortable 'black up' scene. Most of the movie is devoted to watching Ted at work, leading us to conclude that in all things familiarity breeds contempt.

But Skinner also has his own stalker, in the form of Heidi (one time adult movie star Traci Lords), a near catatonic junkie who presumably was one of the killer's previous - and unfinished - victims. Left with a scarred body she's out for revenge and, judging by her walking pace, is in no hurry to achieve her goal.

Ivan Nagy, who died back in 2015, is of course is better known as one time boyfriend of Hollywood Madam Heidi Fleiss, and I'm sure it's no coincidence that screenwriter Paul Hart-Wilden (who is to be, er, thanked for rescuing his work from the vaults for this release) gave Skinner's nemesis in the movie the same name. While the movie certainly has its gory moments, it's generally pretty inconsequential, although Raimi, in a rare lead role, brings something quietly sinister to the character of Dennis. On the plus side Skinner has a sleazy atmosphere (his victims are nearly all prostitutes) and its lethargic pace works well in establishing mood.

Ted Raimi as Dennis Skinner, in, er, Skinner
Following this Nagy, one assumes, had scratched the itch of making a horror movie, and decided that for future projects there was more money in skin than the skinned (ouch), devoting his time to alliterative cinematic outings such as All Nude Nikki (1998) and Izzy Sleeze's Casting Couch Cuties (1999). Skinner is a one off, for sure, and for that we should probably be grateful.

101 Films have done their usual sterling work on the extras package for the 4K scan Blu Ray/DVD release. As well as a booklet, extras include:

 • A Touch of Scandal - Interview with Director Ivan Nagy

• Under His Skin - Interview with Star Ted Raimi

• Bargain Bin VHS For A Buck - Interview with Screenwriter Paul Hart-Wilden. Probably the best of the extras; Hart-Wilden documents the bizarre search for an original print of the movie.

• Cutting Skinner - Interview with Editor Jeremy Kasten

• Flaying sequence out-takes and extended takes

Skinner is released by 101 Films on 14 October 2019

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