This was a film that I got the chance to check out the worldwide festival premiere at the Nightmare Film Festival. I was intrigued when it was stated to be similar to Tales from the Crypt and having 80's nostalgia. The official synopsis for this Skeletons in the Closet is the titular late-night, horror anthology television series featuring The Widow (Ellie Church) and her dead husband, Charlie (Adam Michaels).
The first thing that struck me for this film is that is pretty meta actually. We have a young girl, Kacey (Lia Sullivan), as she is getting ready for that night's episode of Skeletons in the Closet to air. She has a new babysitter, Tina (Elizabeth Stenholt), who mocks her for the show.
When it airs, the opening credits are for the film itself, but it shows The Widow showering and getting dressed. It strategically doesn't any nudity, but being that it is later at night there is some swearing. She goes down into her basement where Charlie is waiting to watch a movie. I won't harp on the look of him as this is a cheesy late night show. He actually does look pretty good though to be honest. They settle in to watch Chop Shop, which is an anthology film that features three stories that are connected.
Being that this film takes place in the 1980's, they are watching it on a VHS tape. We get the old familiar things like tracking and static. The tape isn't in the best shape, which The Widow and Tina both point out. This has an Inception feel in that we are watching two people watch a television show where two people are watching a movie. The film has to do a lot of jumping from each level to ensure we don't lose the characters as well. To do this we get the footage messing up with static and other abnormalities you might get with a VHS. I will admit though, it did get annoying after awhile. They just went to that well one time too many.
This film is also part comedy, which I'm not always the biggest fan of. I didn't mind it for this one though actually. For the best ones, when they blend horror with comedy, the comedy starts to die away past the halfway point where it gets a little bit more serious. I think that actually works to the advantage of this film.
As for the stories in Chop Shop, the first one is a mother, Rebecca (Renee Domenz) is estranged from her mother, Grandma O'Malley (Leigh Rose). She needs her to watch her daughter so she can go on a business trip. We see that Grandma is harboring a pretty horrible secret. The second story is of an actress who takes her role a little too far. The third is a robbery goes bad. It is all brought together with a wraparound story that takes place in what looks to be a warehouse with someone being tortured.
All the while, Tina becomes meaner and meaner to Kacey who just wants to enjoy her show. She does come up with a way to get back at her. There is also an escaped mental patient that is on the loose and could be watching the house.
I know what you are thinking, I jumped around a lot in recapping this, but I had to. That is kind of how the film plays out. There is a lot going on and maybe a little bit too much for a film of this length. I do think that they balance going through each level. I really only found Kacey interesting because she a young horror fan. I was more interested in The Widow and Charlie though. Their banter is great and she is quite attractive. The ending is a little bit clinched, but it fit the film.
Acting in this film is quite interesting. I thought Stenholt and Sullivan did an excellent job at making this film feel like it is from the 80's. I don't really buy what Sullivan did in the end though. Church and Michaels were also good in that they are a bit cheesy being horror film hosts. Michaels though makes some really insightful comments and their banter is great like I said above. The rest of the acting is also cheesy, because they are in a low budget horror film. I can't fault them for bringing to life what they are going for. I will give that to the film.
As for effects, I actually thought they were good for the most part. A lot of it looked to be practical, which I happen to love. There was some CGI blood, but we only get a glimpse of it and it didn't really bother me. The rest of it looked practical and quite real. I did hate the effects they tried to use to make this look like a rough VHS tape. A little bit of it was fine, but it became tiresome as they quite doing it over and over again. It does tone down as the film goes on. I did think the film looked really good though.
Now with that said, this film was pretty fun. I thought the concept sounded good on paper, but it became a little bit too much on the screen. I think that the film needed to have a little longer run time to really execute it properly. It didn't ruin the film, but I just wanted more of The Widow and Charlie. The acting for the film was pretty good for what they were going for. I thought the effects for the most part were good, but the bad VHS things were used a little too much. The score of the film didn't really stand out to me, but it also didn't hurt the film either. I still think that this is an above average film and worth a viewing. It is definitely a fun film with a lower running time.