Wherein we roll up our sleeves, get angry, and give The Academy a swift punch in the nuts
Best Director: Sevé Schelenz forSkew
U.S. Premiere: April 19 (Myrtle Beach International Film Festival)
The found-footage genre is all the rage — especially in horror films like Paranormal Activity or Cloverfield. Although 1980's Cannibal Holocaust was the first in this genre, 1999's The Blair Witch Project created the modern formula: several ordinary people film something unusual or possibly supernatural, often by accident, with the conceit that the film you're watching was "reconstructed" from their footage. Either you're drawn into the moment and it seems "real", or the jerky camerawork makes you barf in your neighbor's box of Sour Patch Kids — but in either case these films are all pretty much the same. I didn't think it was likely that we'd have a new take on the genre. And then I saw Skew.
Directed by Sevé Schelenz, Skew tells the story of three friends — Simon, Eva, and Rich — on a road trip to a buddy's wedding. Simon just bought a videocamera and wants to document the occasion. Since we're watching a found-footage movie, we check off the inevitable genre tropes: Attractive, likable leads? Check. Abrupt edits and the unpolished camerawork of an amateur? Check. Creepy ominous events? Check. A helpful hotel clerk whose face seems to be all fucked up, despite him acting perfectly normal? Che — woah, what?
Fucked up isn't really a good way to describe it. His face is just...off. You could call it skewed (duh). This effect is so unique and unnerving, and the moment I saw it I held my breath. It's not every day that you see something new and original in a movie, especially a horror film, and I crossed my fingers that Skew could be something special. And then came the kicker: it's not the clerk's face that's off. It's the camera. "Could it be?" I asked myself. "A new take on found footage? Where the killer isn't some ghost, zombie, monster, or bunch of sticks — but the camera itself? Oh man I hope the rest of the movie is this cool!" And, thankfully, it was.
Skew delivers on every level — acting, writing, sound, camerawork, and effects. Such a cohesive film points to great, consistent directing by Schelenz. Skew is such a sublimely simple story, but therein lies its strength: a film like this depends on its audience getting emotionally involved with the characters, and Skew's minimalist plot lets us spend a lot of time with Simon, Eva, and Rich and really get to know them. Schelenz's script is cleverly written, and although the film sounds add-libbed, the actors are reading directly from the screenplay. This is a thinking man's horror film, and you have to pay attention to it to fully grasp the story. And I haven't even discussed the awesome ending, which, well, you'll have to find out for yourself. It makes you want to go back and watch the film again, and upon second viewing I picked up on so much that I missed the first time.
And man, that skewing effect is just so damn creepy. It's worth seeing for that alone. Do yourself a favor and go watch this right now. There's no word on a DVD release yet, but it's on Netflix Instant. Don't watch a trailer, don't read any more plot summary, just press play. You're welcome.