Plot: Dennis (Ted Raimi) has just arrived in town and needs a place to crash, so he stops in at a house that offers a room to rent. There he meets lonely housewife Kerry (Ricki Lake) and she decides to approve him on the spot, as she likes the idea of a man being around and Dennis seems harmless enough, even a little like a nerd. Her husband is often on the road as a trucker, so Dennis can provide some company and a little peace of mind, so that she’s not home alone. But while he might seem like an awkward nerd, he is also a sadistic serial killer who not only stalks the streets for victims, but flays them in horrific fashion. As Dennis begins to prey upon his new hunting grounds, he is able to keep his murderous hobbies hidden from Kerry, but someone from his past has followed him with plans to end his blood lust. Will someone uncover the truth and be able to stop Dennis’ march of bloodshed or will he continue to pile up corpses until he needs to once again start over somewhere new?
Entertainment Value: This is a nasty, insanely fun horror/thriller that boasts a wild atmosphere and a colorful cast, populated with talented performers that embrace the madness. The premise isn’t an original one and feels like a basic serial killer narrative, but Skinner isn’t as much about the story as it is the characters, the violence, and the sadistic glee of the material. The tone is often brutal, but also absurd at times and makes some wild, bold choices that result in highly memorable set pieces, such as when Dennis skins a man and runs around wearing his flesh. That is likely one of the scenes viewers will remember most often, as it is just insane and certain to offend, but again, the movie approaches it with enthusiasm and over the top aplomb. But Skinner is unsettling often and shifts between that nastiness and a more light hearted touch, which makes things even more horrific. Ted Raimi is fantastic and runs with Dennis’ tonal changes, making the most of the manic moments. He handles the creepy killer vibes well, but can also come across as a shy awkward dude, just what the material needed. The rest of the cast is also quite effective, with Ricki Lake, Traci Lords, and Richard Schiff in prominent roles in the small supporting ensemble. This is not one for the weak of heart, but for those who appreciate outrageous horror movies with a real nasty streak, Skinner is highly, highly recommended.
The movie has a definite bleak, sleaze soaked texture throughout, but there’s little actual naked flesh on showcase. A couple scenes tease some nudity, but keep it mostly obscured, though the scenes are part of our Skinner’s more brutal practices, rather than romantic encounters. But the lack of direct sleaze doesn’t dampen the sleazy atmosphere, so Skinner can still make your skin crawl and feel like you need a shower. The violence is a little more generous and includes a nasty skinning set piece, so the movie lives up to the title. The effects used as Skinner flays one of his victims are impressive, especially since the camera keeps up right on the gore as it unfolds. Literally, because the skin is peeled back to reveal all the visceral contents within. The skin suits are also wild, as they have a raw, rushed look that matches Skinner’s methods to perfection, just loose, disturbing layers of his victim’s skin, worn as a fashion statement. There’s also some other assorted blood here and there, such as gun shot wounds at one point, but most of the rest of the bloodletting happens off camera. The dialogue includes Skinner’s manic mood swings, his ridiculously offensive mocking of one of his victim’s, some dysfunctional marriage fun, and one man bragging about how he could have been a contender. The overall craziness dials in high, with Traci Lords dressed like Stevie Nicks, the insane racist skin suit pursuit, skinning dinner turned kitchen dance routine, and the dark, hopeless tone that permeates the entire movie.
Overall Insanity: 8/10
The Disc: Severin Films has given us the uncut version of Skinner, complete with a new 4k scan that looks fantastic. There is some mild softness at times, but this is in inherent and likely a limitation of the film’s low budget, while most scenes look quite sharp and well detailed. So the visuals look spruced up nicely, but there’s still natural grain and that helps Skinner hold into that intended, wonderful, grimy visual presence. The extras include interviews with director Ivan Nagy, star Ted Raimi, writer Paul Hart Wilden, and editor Jeremy Kasten, each given their own segment and the shortest of these still runs over ten minutes in duration. There’s also outtakes & extended takes with a focus on the effects work, as well as the film’s trailer.