Ted Raimi is a beloved member of the genre community and for good reason. Along with his brother, Sam, he helped play a pivotal role in bringing to life one of the most iconic horror heroes of all time. In addition to that, he’s spent the last 40 years or so playing a number of popular supporting characters, most notably Joxer on Xena: Warrior Princess. In between all those great supporting roles, Ted has occasionally taken his quirky style to the forefront as a leading man, which is exactly what he did in 1993 in director Ivan Nagy’s Skinner.
Raimi stars as Dennis Skinner, a likeable drifter that bounces from town to town with nothing more than his toolbox looking for work. Skinner is an unassuming man; despite his rather meek demeanor, he has that Main Street, USA sort of charm. He arrives in his latest town and answers an ad for a room for rent put in a local paper by Kerry (Ricki Lake). A bit apprehensive at first, Kerry agrees to rent the room out to Skinner.
Kerry is clearly lonely as her husband, Geoff (David Warshofsky), is a truck driver and spends a lot of time out on the road. Over the next few days Skinner and Kerry spends some time together at home and start to develop a bit of a bond. That all goes up in flames when it’s revealed that by night Skinner is a ruthless serial killer that brutally murders those he finds offensive. This leads to a lot of late nights roaming skid row looking for hookers to serve as his next victim.
Hot on Skinner’s trail is Heidi (Traci Lords), a mysterious woman who has stalked Skinner from town to town. Heidi appears to have a few problems of her own — she’s a junkie and walks with a noticeable limp — and as the story moves along we learn that she survived an attack from Skinner in the past and he determined to bring him down.
Skinner would be best described as a noir/slasher mash-up. Think Silence of the Lambs, but a much more graphic B-movie take. And I do mean graphic. Skinner takes his name literally and skins his victims once they’re dead. He then makes full body suits with their skin, puts them on and walks around mocking whoever he last killed. At one point it actually results in a wildly offensive scene in which Skinner kills a black man, throws on his skin and dances around tossing out racist stereotypes.
The film features stunning effects work from KNB. They don’t skimp and show you everything. In one scene you actually witness Skinner slicing the skin down a victim’s back and then removing it. He does the same when removing the scalp from a skull. It’s bloody and glorious.
Greg Littlewood also deserves a major shoutout. This movie is brutal and rough, but Littlewood, the film’s DP, pictures it beautifully. There’s a number of shots, like the above header image, that use shadows and neon lights to create a vivid illustration that dances for our eyes. Who says slashers can’t be classy?
So where has this film been all these years? BD readers are a smart bunch, so maybe you all remember this one, but it had been completely off my radar until Severin announced its release. They seem to have a knack for putting out films that are entirely new to me and I love them for it. Skinner is just the latest such release, and it’s a nasty little slasher that I think I love? The question mark is because this is a fast moving relationship and I’m afraid of commitment. Also, when I was first done watching the film I wasn’t entirely sure what I thought. I actually mentioned it to some friends and called it “interesting.” But since then I’ve put it back on to re-watch certain scenes and I can’t stop thinking about it. And I want others to watch it so we can discuss it. I think that’s love. I love Skinner and I think you might too.
For starters, the film is uncut, unrated and scanned in 4K and it looks wonderful. There’s a certain gratification to watching sleazy films in 4K that cannot be gained elsewhere. Bravo to Severin for constantly providing this beautiful feeling.
The new Blu-ray release features four interviews — Ivan Nagy, Ted Raimi, screenwriter Paul Hart-Wilden and editor Jeremy Kasten. All four interviews are great but the Raimi one is especially top-notch. Raimi talks about the filming of Skinner with a lot of focus on the locations because the majority of the film takes place just a few blocks away from where Raimi was living at the time. He also touches on working with Lords and discusses how she is the sort of actor that all other actors want to work with. There’s also a great tidbit about KNB. Raimi mentions how he worked with those guys (Robert Kurtzman, Greg Nicotero, Howard Berger) in their early days on Evil Dead II but by the time they got around to Skinner they were hugely in demand, which means none of the faces of KNB where actually ever on set. They made all their props in their offices and had an assistant take them in everyday. Beyond Skinner, Raimi goes over his career as a whole and speaks on his preference to play character roles rather than being the straight man.
The release also features outtakes and extended scenes.
Skinner will be available on Blu-ray from Severin Films on February 19, 2019.