If the purpose of a horror movie is to startle
then this one must be counted as a success, particularly in some unforgettable
gross-out moments. That doesn’t change the fact, however, that it’s
standard-issue nineties straight-to-video trashola in nearly every other
If you’ve seen Nick Broomfield’s 1995 documentary HEIDI FLEISS: HOLLYWOOD
MADAME then you might recognize this film’s director Ivan Nagy as the
interviewee who dated Fleiss and apparently assisted in her nefarious activities
(it’s no accident, I assume, that a pivotal character in SKINNER is named
Heidi). Broomfield’s film further alleges that Nagy was a drug dealing pimp who
turned Fleiss into the police; Roger Ebert, in his review of the film, describes
Nagy’s appearance as “the face of evil.” Nagy was already a television veteran
when he made SKINNER in 1993--his previous credits included 1986’s INTIMATE
ENCOUNTER, described by one IMDB user as “the first G-rated soft porn
made-for-TV movie”--and now makes porno flicks.
Other than that this film stands out from the glut of nineties video fodder
because of the presence of the KNB EFX Group, who create some genuinely
impressive, gut-churning eviscerations, and the highly eccentric cast, which
appears to have been on loan from a
John Waters movie: Ted Raimi, Sam’s little
brother, Ricki Lake and ex-underage porno starlet Traci Lords.
Skinner is a nerdy young man with problems: he’s tormented by memories of
his abusive father, who once had his young son assist him in performing an
autopsy. This apparently had such a profound effect on Skinner that as a
grown-up he’s taken to living up to his name; when not working as a janitor at a
manufacturing plant he likes to murder prostitutes and remove their skin…and
then wear it over his own! He’s left Heidi, a disfigured ex-wife, in his wake,
who’s dedicated her life to tracking down Skinner and ending his reign.
The kind-hearted Kerri, meanwhile, is renting out a room in her house, much
to the consternation of her truck driver BF. Unfortunately for her, Skinner
becomes the room’s tenant; worse, Kerri starts up a relationship with Skinner,
unaware of his nighttime activities, which are growing increasingly reckless.
His latest victim is a black co-worker who makes the mistake of harassing
Skinner on the job. The latter gets even by skinning the guy and, in the film’s
most outrageous sequence, walking the streets in his skin spouting jive. Thus
attired, Skinner also poisons a dog and beats a prostitute to death. There is a
happy ending, however, as Heidi manages to finally track down her hubbie, Kerri
learns of his true nature and Skinner at last gets his comeuppance.
Tacky though it is, this film is reasonably well-made. That’s despite the
fair-to-middling performances, generic synthesizer score and annoyingly garish
music video cinematography (which tends to utilize distracting color filters,
showing a distinctly eighties influence in this early-nineties production).
That’s all par the course for straight to video movies like this one, of which
Ivan Nagy has directed more than his share. He deserves credit for his
audacity, particularly in two gotta-see-it-to-believe-it sequences, one a
startlingly graphic EYES WITHOUT A FACE-inspired skin removal and the other Ted
Raimi’s infamous walk down the alleyway in a black guy’s skin, which pretty much
defines Politically Incorrect.
Director: Ivan Nagy
Producer: Brad Wyman
Screenplay: Paul Hart-Wilden
Cinematography: Gregory Littlewood
Editing: Peter Schenk
Cast: Traci Lords, Ricki Lake, Ted Raimi, David Warshofsky, Richard Schiff,
Blaire Baron, Robert Eaton, Christina Engelhardt, Dewayne Williams, Time
Winters, Frederika Keston, Saralee Froton