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Monday, October 28, 2019

Skeletons in the Closet (2018)

At the most recent Cinema Wasteland Show I kept noticing a table setup by director Tony Wash promoting his latest project, Skeletons in the Closet. After watching the trailer a couple of times, I went over and talked to him. It didn’t take more than a couple of minutes before I was sold on the movie. An independent horror anthology seems like a no brainer and I’ve been on such a kick with these that I couldn’t pass up the chance to check this out. What is even more exciting is that Wash has assembled a group of independent filmmakers for this project. Not only do we get to see his work, but also that of B.A. Lewandowski, Rhiann Lynn Owen, and Robert Patrick Stern. I love it when I get to see so many people working and doing interesting things. 

All the best anthologies have a good wrap around story. Here we have a young girl being babysat by an annoyed teenager. The girl is watching her favorite late-night horror hosted show, Skeletons in the Closet, while the sitter kills time. The hosts are The Widow and her dead husband Charlie, who is now a zombie and has some rather sarcastic things to say. But then he is dead so we should all cut him some slack. They are presenting the stories that both the characters and we the audience are watching.

The first story is from director Wash and has a little girl spending a couple of days with her grandmother. When she and her mother arrive at the house it is clear that there is some unpleasant history between her mother and her grandmother. There is some family baggage that has never been dealt with and it seems that the grandmother is angry with her daughter over her close relationship with her father. This is reinforced when we find out that he has recently died and that she never told her. There is a big fight and things come to a head.

The story is a bit thin and I was disappointed that the big twist wasn’t explained in more detail. That said the young actress, Lia Sullivan, is really good and the gore is very effective. You have someone being butchered on a table in a scene that is very reminiscent of Waxwork II. That one has stuck with me for many years, as I think this will. This was certainly found a fun way to kick things off and I can’t wait to see what is next.

The next story from director Owen is very short, but packs a lot in. We watch as a woman is tied to a chair and in fear for her life as her abusive husband comes home. He is apparently up to no good, but luckily, she breaks free in time to defend herself. She grabs the closest weapon and is able to stab him to death before he can kill her. But then we find out that this was all a setup and he wasn’t a bad guy. We see her practicing an explanation why she had to murder him. But wait because this is a double fake out as this was all in her head as the action rewinds and we see she was working on a script and that her husband just came downstairs to ask when supper would be ready.

This is one creepy Grandmother!
Was this just a screenplay? Is she just fantasizing about killing her husband? Or is she really planning something? It is never explained, and I think that I’m okay with that. This feels like one of those horror short stories where the author leaves you wondering what really happened. While it is brief, we do get to see some blood and I thought it was shot and staged well. This was fun and you can’t ask for much more than that.  

The final story is I think a combination of work from directors Lewandowski, Wash, and Stern. It has a couple criminals hiding out in a haunted junkyard. They are running from the law and know that the police won’t follow them in as the ghost hates cops. Of course, the ghost doesn’t like trespassers either which doesn’t bode well for them. Well at least one of them anyways as the other seems to be in cahoots with the vengeful spirit. The one that isn’t in on it gets tied to a chair and bad things happen to him. Not sure what that is since it is all unseen when the camera work suddenly goes first person blocking out the good stuff. It is also hinted that he is the father to the girl in the first story and the reason she and her mother end up at grandma’s house. It is a tenuous connection at best.

This feels like a couple different stories, which makes sense because it is. Things kick off with the robbers hiding out in the junkyard and is shot as a traditional movie (directed by Lewandowski). After some spooky stuff then the transition happens to the POV of the character strapped in the chair (directed by Wash and Stern). This is my least favorite part of the movie. I’m not a fan of the camera work as it gets very shaky and hard to follow. I also feel a bit cheated and a lot of things are implied but hardly shown. Is the man in hell or are these just crazy people? I was interested enough to want to know, so they had me there. But then it never resolves or connects in any meaningful way. This just feels awkward and disappointing. Then again I'm not a fan of this kind of filmmaking so it might just be me.

Our horror hosts for the evening
After this the action goes back to the girl watching the show. She has had just about enough of her babysitter making snide remakes and being a teenager (they do get on my nerves too!) so makes her a very special cup of coco that sure enough is poisoned. After offing the distraction, she goes back to watching television and we get to see the Widow and Charlie wrap up their show. The credits roll and that is it. Or is it? There is something on the news at the beginning of the movie about an escaped mental patient and during the intermissions between stories we seen a POV shot of someone lurking around the house watching the girl and her sitter. In a bit of post credit fun, we see that the girl might get what is coming to her.

Much like the first story the young actress in the wrap around story, Alaina Karner, is very good. She is gleefully evil in how she dispatches her sitter. I also wanted to mention how much I liked the makeup on the dead husband/co-host Charlie. It is a basic skull mask over an actor’s face, but it looks cool. Ellie Church is a go to independent film actress and never disappoints including her turn here as the Widow. This wrap around is very strong and connects the other stories as well as delivering some laughs and fun itself.

I think that Skeletons in the Closet is decent and worth checking out. Does it have some flaws? Yes, it does. Independent filmmakers have to take some chances and stretch their budgets. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t. But overall the movie is a good time and has some creepy moments that most horror fans will dig. I going to recommend the movie and remind everyone that if we don’t support movies like this all we are going to get is the same recycled ghost movies filled with jump scares again and again from the big studios. I can’t speak for everyone, but I want something different now and then damn it!

© Copyright 2019 John Shatzer

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