When vocalist Dan McCafferty painfully lamented “Love hurts. Love scars. Love wounds and mars” in the opening phrases of Nazareth’s classic anti-love ballad, we all knew what he was talking about. In SKINNED ALIVE, the film’s protagonist Jeffrey also knows a little something about the difficulty in finding true love. But if he thought times were hard before that special lady came into his life, then he’s really in for a shock when she finally shows up.
Jeffrey (Jack Dillon) is your everyday, average schlub. An insurance salesman who hates his job, he lives alone in a palatial suburban home that he inherited after his mother passed away. His Brother is a Lawyer and his Sister is a Doctor, but Jeffrey has no aspirations and no prospects for female companionship. So desperate to make a connection, he turns to prostitution—a band-aid fix that Jeffrey partakes in so often he even has an account number set up with one Madame. But, the women Jeffrey has over to the house aren’t there for conversation and dinner dates, and that “all business” approach leaves Jeffrey even further from his dream of a girl he can lavish his love upon, until Jeffrey meets his latest girl—Pandora (Melissa Bacelar). Perfectly matched in every way, the unlikely pair falls madly in love. But when Jeffrey proposes to Pandora, she needs to confess a very personal matter before accepting—Pandora isn’t just a regular hooker…she’s a cannibal hooker who eats her Johns! Can love really conquer all? And will Jeffrey the doting Jewish insurance salesman be able to accept a fiancé who definitely does not keep kosher?
If SKINNED ALIVE sounds like a black comedy to you then you’re on the right track. Originally titled EAT YOUR HEART OUT the film—from the twisted minds of PINK EYE Writer Joshua Nelson and Director James Tucker—is choc-full-o enough repressed and unleashed human lunacy to fill up Dr. Phil’s broadcast calendar for the better part of a decade. And while the film isn’t exceedingly laugh-out loud funny, over-the-top gory or heart-on-its-sleeve sentimental it does manage to cull a pretty solid subset of each of those cinematic clichés into a surprisingly watchable low budget production.
The film is really anchored buy Dillon’s turn as Jeffrey. Required to be just enough of a pathetic loser to accept as the protagonist of the story, it also has to be believable that the hot-blooded Pandora would fall for this downtrodden insurance salesman. In that respect the film alludes that both Pandora and Jeffrey are damaged souls and therefore they are drawn together. But if you think this is a star-crossed love story for the ages then you’re looking for another movie altogether. This film is twisted enough to carry that premise just below the surface, but on top, it’s mostly just sex, blood and another harrowingly believable cameo by everyone’s favorite cross-dressing horror icon Alan Rowe Kelly (I’LL BURY YOU TOMORROW) as “Mama” the Madame who employs Pandora.
So, if you keep your expectations in check and open up your hearts to the possibility that true love can make you overlook your hooker girlfriend using a hacksaw to cut off another prostitutes pinky finger before snacking on the dissected digits—then SKINNED ALIVE is just the kind of silly little film for you—and hopefully your non-cannibal-call-girlfriend—to watch on your next “movie night”.