It's times like these that I wonder why I even bother with straight-to-video, shot-on-digital horror films at all. Tommi Lepola and Tero Molin's 2009 institutionalized horror outing "Skeleton Crew" is, simply put, more mentally and physically taxing than a root canal performed by a one-armed, lazy-eyed dentist with a penchant for heavy drooling. Although the film lasts a mere 90 minutes, it took me roughly two hours to complete the viewing, due in part to the film's complete inability to hold my attention. In fact, I stopped the movie at one point to address the unholy length of my toenails, which is always an indication that something is amiss, cinematically speaking. Unless, of course, the removal of extraneous bodily growths is part of the experience.
Strangely enough, I generally tend to enjoy movies set within the confines of an insane asylum, including such half-hearted, ill-conceived endeavors as "Asylum of the Damned" and William Malone's "House on Haunted Hill" remake. Even if you fail to properly execute the glut of the required terror-related elements, at least you've still get the inherent creepiness of the picture's setting to pull you through. In regards to "Skeleton Crew," even the building is bland and tasteless. Atmosphere is everything when you're dealing with a picture like this; fumbling the proverbial ball in that department is an enormous no-no. This is, I'm afraid, the least of the picture's numerous issues.
Before continuing, I should warn you: There are a few minor spoilers lurking beyond this point. I generally don't include this sort of information in my reviews, but I can't properly discuss the movie without touching on a few key details, including a few that some unsavory individuals may deem "too revealing." Sorry about that.
The first twenty minutes are devoted to a messy car crash, a desperate young woman in search of medical care for her injured partner, and a mysterious mental facility buried in the middle of absolutely nowhere. After a few scenes of shaky dialogue, wooden acting, and generic torture porn gore, the audience discovers that this extended sequence is, in fact, the dreaded "film within a film," a technique which ranks as one of the most annoying gimmicks a director can utilize, especially when the sequence in question overstays its welcome. Despite my initial irritation, I attempted to give this directorial duo the benefit of the doubt. Silly me.
Apparently, these fictitious filmmakers and their dodgy cast are attempting to make a film based on a series of murders which happened in said institution several years ago. Before you can scream "demonic possession" into the ear of the person seated to your immediate left, the director's body is taken over by a murderous spirit, a supernatural entity that intends to make a snuff film of its own. Is the angry supernatural force in question somehow connected to the aforementioned killing spree? Figuring out the specifics is easy. Caring about any of this nonsense, I'm afraid, isn't quite as simple.
Lepola and Molin, despite the tepid nature of their material, are talented directors. The film is carefully shot and, for the most part, well-executed. That said, their script for "Skeleton Crew" is problematic right from the start: terribly unlikable characters, stilted performances, and typical, uninspired set pieces permeate the film. The "American Gladiators"-style one-on-one fight scene is easily the goofiest moment in the entire picture, eclipsing everything else on the film's proverbial plate. How anyone could think this was a good idea is beyond me.
"Skeleton Crew" has an interesting premise, but little else. The performances are dreadful, the kills are nothing to write home to your estranged grandmother about, and the script is an aneurysm masquerading as legitimate cinema. If Tommi Lepola and Tero Molin intend to make another film, perhaps working with outside material is in order. Accentuate the positive and all the noise. On the positive side, it does have an intriguing poster, one that really catches the eye. Try starring at it for 90 minutes, instead.