DIRECTOR: Dustin Mills
CAST: Allison Egan, Dave Parker, Erin R. Ryan
PLOT: Daring doctor’s plans go wrong when he makes himself his own experiment … in terror!!!
SKINLESS (formerly The Ballad of Skinless Pete) is the latest Dustin Mills’ flick to make its way to the Blu-Ray format. Despite his versatility, the auteur quality of Mills’ work leaves a detectible vein of his style threading throughout his corpus. This is quite true of SKINLESS. Rather than his jokier (but no less sick) puppet themed scary movies, this one is more of a gorefest. A successor of the classic science gone wrong, but with a decidedly post modern edge, SKINLESS gives us a doctor who decides to try his new breakthrough treatment (I think that’s what it was, anyway, but since it’s essentially a McGuffin, it’ll be OK if I’m inexact here) on himself. And we all know how badly things end in these movies when the doc/scientist decides to make himself his own guinea pig. Well, in this case, medical tech that was supposed to help, in the doctor’s case only makes things worse. Which is to say he goes from patchy bits of skinlessness to a more all over condition that makes psoriasis look like poison ivy. To boot, his new homicidal instinct is aided by the ability to spew a tissue dissolving substance that leaves his victims worse off than he. The gore effects are as snazzy, fun and effective as I expect from Mills; exquisite low budget work, to be sure. Familiar faces from other Mills’ films also buoy the good times to be had by all (except the squeamish and/or easily offended, in which case, piss off …). One wonders going into this where it’s all going to end, other than in tragedy, which we can pretty well surmise from the get-go. It’s not that we don’t know things are going to end badly, we just don’t know how badly. Or just exactly what the logistics of self-induced demise will be. There are some surprises. Just when you think the Hello Hellraiser skin condition is the worst of the symptoms (besides, perhaps, the nasty penchant for killing in a pretty nasty way), some new shit leaps out, and I mean that kind of literal. When he opens his mouth, the truth will out. Or something. This isn’t Mills’ strongest efforts but to be fair even his second best movies aren’t weak. Mills is a strong filmmaker who does the absolute most with the resources at hand, creating clever, visually appealing alt-horror that emanates style. Besides the mad scientist routine (by way of Mills’ graphic imagination), SKINLESS also contains a subplot of the beauty and the beast variety, albeit through the horror filter. Not the first time that’s been done, either, but still the first time by this director. And I feel like any topic Mills might approach, even if hackneyed as hell and beaten like a dead horse, would be addressed in a fresh and interesting way. Even when Mills is employing classic tropes, he isn’t too derivative; he has his own voice and finds his way to apply it to whatever tale he tells.
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