PLOT - Dennis Skinner, a nerdy, charming, cute, and rather withdrawn young man has just arrived in the seedy city of Los Angeles. Renting a room from a lonely housewife who's husband is constantly on the road, he befriends her, and gets a job at a local factory. Everything seems to be going fine, but somebody is following Dennis. A mysterious young woman named Heidi. She's a drag addict, wears her beautiful long blond hair in her face, a big floppy hat, long gloves, and a trench coat. Here she arrives in the same city and seems to be looking for revenge. It appears that Dennis has a big secret. Dennis is actually a deeply disturbed serial killer, who stalks hookers in the city, before murdering them, taking their bodies back to abandoned warehouses, and skins their bodies. Afterwards he wears his victims' skin, taking on their personality. He's been committing these brutal crimes ever since he was a young boy, after he witnessed his abusive father skin his own mother's dead body right in front of him. Here Heidi, the soul survivor of his very high body count is dead-set to find and murder Skinner before he claims another life.
LOWDOWN - This past October I was by far the sickest I've ever been. I seriously spent the whole month basically bed bound. on tons of antibiotics, hating so much life. One of the biggest reasons I hated being so sick was the fact that I missed the chance to meet Mr. Ted Raimi when he appeared at Rock & Shock earlier that month. I'm sure everyone knows what a MASSIVE Raimi fan I am. I adore Sam and Ted's movies, and it's a dream of mine to someday meet them. I mean I even have Sam from Intruder tattooed on me as well as his autograph. As much as I love Sam, I love Ted the same. I always get such a kick out of his cameos, and had been dying for quite some time to actually meet him and let him know how much I adored him. It seems as though sickness is a common theme with Ted and I never being able to meet. Roughly around 2014, I was working security at HorrorHound and was lucky enough to get assigned to pick Ted up from the airport as well as work his table all weekend. I can't even explain how nervous and giddy I was. Sadly when me and my friend arrived at the airport to go get him we learned that Ted had the flu and had to cancel his appearance. = Bummer of the century. Still, I was pretty pumped to meet him at Rock & Shock, but I got sick...real sick. I took a ton of meds and somehow by the will of God I was able to attend for an hour or so. My friend Courtney talked me into attending Ted' Q&A where we sat up front. At this time I was running a pretty high fever, so I can't really recall that much, but I remember sitting in awe over the fact I was sitting THIS close to a Raimi. As always Raimi was a riot, and very charming, but by the end of the panel I knew there was no way I could meet him. I knew I would probably get him sick, and even tried to rally the next day and see if I felt better to drive back and meet him...sadly my fever was really high and I had to throw in the towel. I was devastated. I spent the next two weeks beyond sick, puking, and even going to the hospital. I remember at one point as I was puking, I started being a total drama queen sobbing that this was the worst October ever since I felt like I was dying AND I missed the chance to meet Ted. I was crushed. Still, I decided to cheer myself up while recovering and tried to watch every Ted movie possible. One of which was a film I remembered seeing as a VHS tape in the horror section as a kid.
This film was Skinner.
I watched the full film on YouTube, impressed by the oddball cast. Instantly I became curious since I read a small video store article stating that talkshow queen Ricki Lake refused to talk about this film. Hummm...interesting. What I really liked was the fact that Ted was the lead. Very few movies does Ted get the chance to really show his talents besides supporting roles or cameos. How this guy's career never fully took off his beyond me. He's handsome in a not so typical way, and he actually has some really great acting chops. When you set aside the fact he's Sam's little brother, you can see he's really his own person, and steals every scene he's ever been in. Skinner truly was his movie. In the early 90's there were a few low budget films where Ted got his chance to shine. Lunatics A Love Story was one, and Skinner was the other.
Skinner was a film that came in the mid to early 90's as horror for most people were taking a nosedive. (I on the other hand disagree since there were a ton of underrated horror films made this this era.) This was the bastard mix of Silence Of The Lambs, and gritty films from the 80's like Pieces and Maniac. Is this a really good film? Eh. It is what it is. I actually really dug the plot. We have Ted playing Dennis Skinner (man irony party of one is calling!) who seems to be this shy, timid, handsome, charming young man. Ted does a wonderful job playing this role, and seriously gives some major uneasy vibes since so many real life serial killers (Ted Bundy, ect) were exactly like this. Ted looks like the boy next door, harmless, and you actually sympathize with him. It's very rare a villain doing so many horrible things on screen can do this, but I think a big reason behind this is because Ted played Dennis. You can't help but like him.
The film looks gritty, dirty, and really does show some serious sketchy parts of LA where Dennis stalks his prey in the daylight. I found the whole storyline of Heidi (Traci Lords) on the hunt after Dennis the most fascinating. This is what made Skinner stand apart for me. This is a movie jammed packed with cult actors. I found Traci not just mysterious and beautiful but hypnotizing as well. You can feel her pain. This is a woman with a dark past, that has hit rock bottom. She's a junkie, and looks to be using the last of her cash to find the man that ruined her life. I would have loved to see more backstory on this character. Just the settle scenes of her covering the mirror at her hotel room with the newspaper, or speaking to the photograph of Dennis as she takes her needles out. Was Heidi a hooker? Was she a past girlfriend or lover of Dennis? What really happened between them? Makes you wonder. Still, as in your face as the twist with her character is, I actually had no idea. I found it interesting as well as heartbreaking.
A big WHOA...moment has to be when Dennis takes care of a man he works with who bullies him. Dennis murders and skins him, only to wear his skin around like a suit, pretending to be like this, talking in his voice, and wandering around and deserted factories in the skin suit without a care in the world. The person he murders is a black man, and he talks like a black man. This scene goes on, and on, and on, and he even chases after a poor young woman who makes the fatal mistake of getting out of her boyfriend's car after a fight, only to be chased by Dennis in the skin suit. Disturbing, terrifying, unsettling, and I'm sure a scene like this wouldn't happen today. Yikes!
I did love the little love story between Ted and Ricki Lake. It was sweet seeing the two being the company and comfort they needed. Somehow the bloody towels, and bags full of knifes...or Ted arriving and sneaking in at night wearing a skin suit multiple times never set off any warnings. But hey, when you need those rent checks, you'll take those rent checks! Ted and Ricki had great chemistry and I sorta wish they would have played it a little more serious via Manhunter. I truly believe Dennis thought he could find someone to share that part of his life, and show the real "him." Also those scenes of him toweling off shirtless, or pressing against the door. HELLO!
I have seen this film uncut and cut. Youtube is completely uncut, and features KNB's killer effects in all their glory. We get a scene where Dennis skins a blond hooker, all the while telling he story of his abusive as a child. Here we see him completely pull her face off, before wearing her skin like a suit. It's gory, bloody, and awesome.
Without spoiling anything, we do get quite the showdown, and a very unsettling ending which left things open for a sequel...which I do kinda wish we could still get! Ted Raimi posted last year he was recording special features for a proper Blu-Ray release. Still not word sadly. I'm waiting since I know for a fact this film would be killer seeing in HD.
This Halloween once I was fully recovered I even attended a party dressed as Traci Lords' character paying tribute to this highly underrated slasher. So in closing if you are a fan of Ted Raimi, or Traci Lords...or slashers with gory KNB effects...check out Skinner ASAP!