Released on September 7th 2018, Skeletons in the Closet is a 80 minutes long indie horror movie in which we see humorous interactions between a young girl and her babysitter, who are watching the titular TV show, featuring a Widow and her dead husband who watch short horror movies. This review explores the movie and analyses a few things without spoilers. The movie is made by Scotchworthy Productions, Cow Lamp Films, The Line Film Co., and September Son Films. Directed & Produced by B.A. Lewandowski, Tony Wash, and Robert Patrick Stern, with Sarah Sharp as a non directing producer. The movie is also watchable in 4k resolution.
Introduction: – The opening credits are shown pretty artistically and builds up the mood of watching a horror show hosted by The Widow, played by Ellie Church. The movie starts off like a normal scenario in which we see Jamie who’s watching a horror TV show while her parents leave her with a babysitter named Tina. Both don’t really become friends but agree to watch the horror show ‘Skeletons in the Closet’ on Channel 13 (Friday the 13th reference!). The show’s host is a lady, called the Widow who watches horror movies with her (un)dead zombie husband, Charlie. The interactions between them are humorous and often give us answers to some questions and endings of some mini stories we see.
The movie is structured like this- You are watching a girl and her babysitter watching a couple watching short horror movies. It does get confusing at the start and near the very end, but it’s not as confusing as the trailer makes it look like. It’s pretty easy to follow the movie and direction & editing is great. All the short stories of Chop Shop are all connected. Once you get to know the small connections, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Like the classic ‘The Creepshow (1982)’ movie, here, each short horror movie feels like having a different sub-genre of horror. Without spoiling the endings, let me give you a brief info of each.
1) Psychological horror:- The first short scenario has us follow a girl named Casey, who is taken to her grandma’s house. The scenario explores our creative imagination, doubts and fears during night time when we were children. The girl is afraid of her strict grandma and the house is mysterious. To add to the tension, everything doesn’t seem well between Casey’s mom and her grandma. It explores the issue of elders and their relations with their children. There is also a mystery added to the house in the same way Silent Hill 4’s Henry’s Apartment (Room 302) or Resident Evil 7’s Baker House. The scenario could have been shorter near the start to feel less clichéd but I think it must be to build up the backstory and suspense. It’s interesting to see secrets unfold in a frightening way and the scenario ends in a very creepy way…
2) Torture Horror:- There’s a second scenario which is a torture scenario connecting the various scenarios is shown. The scenario has a very deep meaning and the ending makes it feel like a page straight out of Silent Hill’s endings. Being captured and communication with horrifying captors reminds us of ShowTime’s Dexter show and Red Barrels’ Outlast game.
3) Thriller or Panic horror:- There’s a third scenario which starts off confusing and shows us a creative 1960s indie horror film maker or The Actress, who visualizes the scenes she wants to do in her film. It has a connection with some important characters but it’s shown in a subtle way.
4) Slasher/chase horror:– The forth scenario is a chase sequence of two robbers being chased by police. They end up in a haunted scrap yard of cars. The scrap yard has a dark past and is cursed. No police personnel enter it on foot because whoever sets their foot there dies of tragedy (Like The Final Destination). To makes the matters worse, the ghost of a dead Hit-man named Junkman Morris or The Dismantler roams in the early morning (4:44 am to 5:44 am) and kills anyone who trespasses the junk yard. Morris’ ghost is a scary wielding mask and crowbar using killer like Freddy from A Nightmare on Elm Street or Jason from Friday the 13th.
The TV static noise and the messages of ‘Adjust Your Tracking’ do distract us sometimes but adds some CRT TV and VHS nostalgia. The effect also, feels similar to Silent Hill’s static noise and visuals. Often we see some mini flashbacks of very horrible, scary and gore-filled clips while someone is trying to uncover some secret. It felt like a misplaced cheap way of induce jump scares or disgust. But when I realized that there’s also a chance of the TV itself or the VHS being possessed, or like Silent Hill 3’s Heather, the protagonist might be visualizing the most horrible thing, I felt that the scary flashbacks also have a meaning. Even we used to think that there’s a monster in the darkness when we were young (Maybe some of us still do).
There’s some nice real TV feel to the show as we see commercials, technical problem message and a shocking news flash of a serial killer on the loose in Jamie & Tina’s world (Real world). This adds another layer of fear to the movie besides the complex plot of Chop Shop short horror stories.
The humor is well placed and rarely feels cheesy. Babysitter asks Jamie, who’s underage, whether she has her parents’ permission to watch the show. It’s because it is filled with blood, gore and some suggestive jokes between the Widow and Charlie. Jamie is a clear case of desensitization of children to violence, which evident from her bizarrely happy face when looking at violent images and her comparison of dumped human intestines to Pepperoni pizza. The issue of parents being okay with violent games but not sexually explicit content (for obvious reasons) is a classic one in the video games. Maybe Jamie’s parents think that the ‘horror’ she watches is simply non violent psychological horror like Fatal Frame, The Grudge, simple jump scares or acreepy pasta storytelling show. This is all left for us to imagine. Charlie is often funny and sometimes very wise.
The movie’s ending seems almost perfect but a bit rushed and takes some time for us to realize some facts. Maybe things would have been clearer if the movie was longer but the way it ends is surprising and somewhat worrying. Maybe the creators wanted us to feel the shock and end the movie on a high note and keeping the things exciting without getting the mood dull.
Everyone from the cast & crew has done a fantastic job. Everyone’s performance feels natural. Alaina Karner as Jamie is adorable and her reactions as horror genre fan feels very natural and we can relate to her. Tina, the babysitter played by Elizabeth Stenholt is an ideal teenage babysitter we know from the pop culture, cartoons, and never feels like she’s over-acting. The interactions and dialogue delivery feels authentic. Ellie Church as the widow is charming as the show’s host and Adam Michaels as the talking dead husband Charlie delivers dialogues well and the body language of a frustrated dead husband still troubled by his wife is precise but unfortunately due to the zombie mask, we can’t see him act properly. Lia Sullivan as Kacey performed well as a scared confused girl in her grandma’s house. Leigh Rose as grandma is scary and powerful. Renee Domenz as Kacey’s mother Rebecca is a well acted role showing a troubled mother. Tony Lee Gratz becomes a very surprisingly good yet troubled protagonist. Rhiann Owen as the actress or the movie maker has acted bravely as the captured lady as well as the creative lady. North Roberts as the Dismantler is aggressive and Alan Z. Mün as the Processor is frightening like a serial killer. Steve Labedz as Rat performs well to maintain the mysterious nature of his character. Willy Adkins as the guard provides a nice performance and Annelyse Ahmad as the victim is creepy.
The special effects were perfect for the movie and had enough real looking scary scenes. The music by DC McAuliffe gives us the 80s feel, is also tense during suspenseful scenes and very aggressive during the chase sequences.
Overall, this movie should be watched by anyone who wants to see great acting performances, nice humor, genuinely creepy chases and most importantly, the experiment of having multiple movies together in one horror movie. The skeletons in the closet is a good experimental horror film which seems like a nice homage to The Creepshow and glorious 80s horror era. You can say that it’sStranger Things meets Elvira meets Married With Children!
Thank you so much for reading this!
Please listen to our interview with Tony Wash (Director, Writer, Producer)and Ben Lewandowski (Director, Editor) about behind the scenes stuff of The Rake (2018) and Skeletons In the Closest (2018). (May Contain Spoilers for The Rake 2018)–
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