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Skinner (1993)

Severin Films
Blu-ray Disc Released: 2/19/2019

All Ratings out of
Audio: ½

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/5/2019

No matter how unoriginal, shallow, or tedious the story may be, the people behind low-budget horror movies have always been incredibly creative when it comes to promoting their products.  The hucksters of the past like William Castle or Samuel Z. Arkoff trotted out all kids of weird gimmicks to sell their movies, but one of the easiest ways to publicize a film is to highlight the well-known actors involved in the project.  And the more diverse and unique the cast, the better.  We don’t see that as much today, but when one comes along, it must be acknowledged.  1993’s Skinner certainly has an interesting group of actors.  And that’s the high point here. 

Dennis Skinner (Ted Raimi) is a quiet, mild-mannered man.  He’s just arrived in town and he’s looking for a place to live.  He finds himself at the home of Kerry (Ricki Lake), who has a room to rent.  As Kerry’s husband is often out of town, she likes having a man around and she’s taken with this nice, shy man.  What Kerry doesn’t know is that Dennis is a serial killer who not only murders people, but he also skins the corpses.  Unbeknownst to Dennis, Heidi (Traci Lords), a woman who survived one of his attacks, has followed him to town and is determined to get her vengeance.  As the bodies (and skins) begin to pile up around town and Heidi gets closer, Kerry remains ignorant of the danger which is living in the next room.


On the surface, Skinner is a pretty pedestrian serial-killer movie.  The overall premise owes a lot to Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, with its depiction of a seemingly low-key guy who hides a dark secret.  Outside of the basic premise, there isn’t much of a story and the much of the film is relegated to five characters.  We do get an explanation for Dennis’ behavior (although it doesn’t make much sense).  Raimi does his best to be a likeable guy and Lake brings some enthusiastic charm to her role. 


However, these small attributes comprise only a miniscule part of the mess which is Skinner.  Director Ivan Nagy (who should not be confused with NFL Coach of the Year Matt Nagy), who would go on to helm movies like Trailer Trash Terri, Lusty Liaisons, and Izzy Sleeze’s Casting Couch Cuties, attempts to make Skinner a quasi-art film, a gamble which comes up snake-eyes.  There are a lot of shots of Dennis walking through ankle-deep water, and I mean a lot of them.  Is this supposed to represent something?  The scenes in which Traci Lords skulks around in her dingy hotel room A) look like they came from a different movie, and B) are shot in a gauzy style which doesn’t match the rest of the film.  There are also scenes where she observes Dennis in action, and it almost feels as if she’s not really there.  The editing is often a bit dodgy, robbing some scenes of a linear feel.  The very end…well, it’s weird.


But, that’s still not the biggest issue with Skinner.  The box refers to the movie as “notorious ‘90s shocker.”  I’m honestly not sure what that’s supposed to mean, but I can tell you what it should.  There is a scene in which Skinner kills an African-American man…and then wears the man’s skin…and imitates his voice.  There have been a lot of things in the news recently where people in blackface have created a controversy.  Well, this scene puts those pictures to shame and, in today’s climate, it’s incredibly hard to watch.  And, unfortunately, this is the only scene that you’re going to remember.  Otherwise, the thing that stands out about Skinner is the cast.  Again, Raimi and Lake are trying to elevate the movie, and what can you say about a movie in which Traci Lords wears prosthetic skin.  Serial-killer films were all the rage in the 90s and Skinner proves that they all weren’t Oscar-worthy.


Skinner must have put most of its budget into that truck stunt on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Severin Films.  The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 35 Mbps.  The Disc features a new 4K scan taken from the original camera negative.  The image is sharp and clear, showing some mild grain and no marked defects form the source materials.  The colors look good, and the image is never overly dark or bright.  The level of detail is OK, but some shots are soft.  The most notable issue with this transfer comes at the 26-minute mark.  This must be an open-matte transfer, because at that moment, a crew member is visible on the right side of the screen.  The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo track which runs at 48 kHz and a constant 2.1 Mbps.  The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects.  We don’t get any dynamic effects, but the actors are always audible and they are never drowned out by the music or effects. 


The Skinner Blu-ray Disc contains a handful of extra features.  “A Touch of Scandal” (20 minutes) is an interview with Director Ivan Nagy from 2007 in which he discusses his early life and his escape from Hungary.  From there, he talks about his film and television career, leading up to Skinner, and his own personal scandals.  “Under His Skin” (14 minutes) offers an interview with Ted Raimi, who talks about his early films…but doesn’t mention the Evil Dead films…and then focuses on Skinner.  He gives an honest assessment of the movie, but also professes his appreciation for the fans.  Paul Hart-Wilden is allowed an opportunity to talk about his inspirations for the film in “Bargain Bin VHS” (17 minutes).  “Cutting Skinner” (11 minutes) has Jeremy Kasten talking about his work on the film, which has several aspects.  We get an 11-minute reel of OUTTAKES & EXTENDED SEQUENCES, most of which involve gore effects.  The final extra is a TRAILER for the film.


Review Copyright 2019 by Mike Long