Following one of the hottest trends within the independent horror genre, 2011's Skew is yet another found footage horror film that has found its way into my arms. At this point, I have seen so many found footage/handheld films, specifically from independent filmmakers, that I'm almost taken aback whenever a new one is announced. It's a subgenre that is fast becoming oversaturated (or already has, to many horror fans), and is now receiving the backlash that is sure to come with any subgenre that all but completely takes over the horror scene. For me, well, I've said it many times in the past, I've had great luck with the handheld genre, and as overbearing as it's become, I flat out love it, plain and simple. And thankfully, Skew does nothing but keep that love intact.
Now, maybe blowing my proverbial load in the first paragraph of a review is a bad idea, but hey, if you're already here and reading this, hopefully you'll be curious as to why I enjoyed the film.
Written and directed by Sevé Schelenz, Skew is, on the surface, your standard road trip story, focusing on a group of friends, Simon, Richard and Eva (played by Rob Scattergood, Richard Harrison and Amber Lewis, respectively), who are on their way to a wedding. It isn't too long before strange things begin to happen to the film's videographer, Simon, as many of the people he encounters on their road trip appear to have a contorted face - a Skewed face, if you will. As the film progresses, it is revealed that all three of the characters have some serious issues with one another, and things are only compounded by the twisted visions that Simon is subjected to.
Naturally, there is more to the story as far as the horror elements go, and the same can be said for the depth of the characters tumultuous relationship, but Skew is a great film to watch knowing very little beforehand. With that said, I would rather not get into too many story details in the event you might seek this film out for yourself. What I will do is applaud Schelenz for creating some incredibly deep and layered characters. The dialogue and character development found in Skew is significantly refreshing for a film with such a low budget, and better yet, the actors all bring solid, believable performances to the table.
As a horror movie, the scary elements of Skew start off fairly early and continue in a nice even pace throughout the entire film and up until its conclusion. There is no long, drawn-out wait for the action to get going (which is the case with some handheld movies), and the film effectively uses some nicely timed and perfectly setup jump scares, a few of which that totally caught me off guard.
Something else that really plays into both the film's overall creep factor and character development is the camera work. There is some interesting work done cinematically, as the videographer, Simon, captures his friends in ways that are somewhat creepy and off putting. Simon will use his camera to simply stare at a character for long periods of time, sometimes unbeknownst to them. Even in mid-conversation, Simon will just go in real close and linger for a minute… all the while, the character is completely clueless that Simon is cinematically analyzing them. It's very stalker like and incredibly disturbing, adding a different level to the horror beyond the lurid visions that Simon suffers from.
The only place where Skew shows any weakness is in its budget, something that only translates to a few specific scenes. Some of them are scenes in which the characters are clearly dubbed into the film, with background conversations happening over footage that was obviously shot at another time in another place. Also, some of the special effects are extremely hindered by the budget; however, they go with it and don't try to shy away from what they are capable of simply because they are limited. In addition, after seeing the effect enough times, more specifically the blurry face, it does become effective enough to convey what is necessary.
Naturally, I do not in any way, shape or form, hold these specific issues against either the film or those behind it. You gotta do what you gotta do when making a low-budget film, and despite the fact that Skew does suffer from some budgetary restraints, it is quite clever and still works as an effective, marginally original found footage horror film. Maybe it's the kid in me who attaches to the genre so greatly, but I think the simplicity and stripped down nature of found footage horror simply works for me on a weird nostalgic level. I love inexpensive, homemade horror films, shot on video horror and anything else that falls in line with that style. Always have and always will, I assume, and for the time being, the genre has not quite hit the skids for me with independent films as solid as Skew being made.
Unlike many of the indie horror movies I review here, Skew is actually readily available to watch streaming on Netflix as we speak. Not that we're speaking, but I digress… if you are indeed a fan of the genre, then I highly recommend giving this low-budget gem a looksie.