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Skin Creepers

Year: 2018
Production Co: Generation X Group Film- & Medienproduktion
Director: Ezra Tsegaye
Writer: Ezra Tsegaye

There's a lot of reason to complain about the very narrow stratum of story styles we see in Hollywood movies. Many of them are indeed formulaic rehashes of Campbellian myth dressed in different garb, and after a lifetime watching them there's always something a bit disconcerting about a script that's so honed, focus tested and polished it hums – they're more like perfectly manufactured consumer electronics than stories, with every possible rough edge machined out and espousing a very clean, user-friendly corporate ethos.

But the more movies you watch from the fringes of filmmaking, the more you realise that while hiring and firing twenty writers and writing teams, having specialists do passes for comedy, thrills and character and all the other trappings of scriptwriting from the big end of town has downsides, it has one big upside – clarity.

Now, some indie films covered in loving personal fingerprints have clarity too, like Primer or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I don't necessarily mean clarity in the plot (if you can work out exactly what's going on in Primer you're either smarter than me or you've watched it a bunch of times with a whiteboard and marker), I just mean that very hard-to-define quality of presence, of certainty in what it is and what it wants to make you feel.

It's probably hard to achieve in any movie, the only reason it ever does is because (when it comes to the big Hollywood scripts) it's passed through so many professional hands clarity is almost guaranteed, or (in the case of an indie) it's the result of staggering genius or a lucky accident.

I found myself thinking about the above while watching this film not because it doesn't make a lot of sense narratively – it makes enough – but because of how tin-eared, shambolic, all-over-the-place, outright schizophrenic it all is. It's not even really a problem in the balance of tone, it just feels like writer Ezra Tsegaye collected a bunch of actors together, pointed a camera at them and told them to do something vaguely related to something they'd just done for continuity.

Two German filmmaker brothers want to make an erotic thriller, and they've not only convinced a sleazy local strip club owner into hiring out two of his girls for it, they've somehow managed to rope a big name American starlet into being in it. While one of them picks her up at the airport, takes her back to the hotel and tries to fend her off because she's suddenly turned aggressively sexually suggestive towards him, the other one is negotiating with the strip club owner and trying to secure a location that's fallen through.

They trick what appear to be the caretaker of an abandoned factory into giving them a key, take all their equipment and actresses there and start to shoot. But instead of kissing amorously, the American starlet attacks one of the strippers, biting her viciously. The two brothers subdue her and spirit her away to the hotel room where it now appears she's possessed by a demon, floating in midair, spitting bile and with her face transformed into a vulpine, blood-streaked mask.

The bellhop who attends to them seems to know something about it, and they bring in a spiritualist they see on a TV infomercial, who arrives prepared to perform what's apparently an exorcism on the young woman. And all the while we're seeing flashbacks to a Korean couple who've hired some sort of shaman lady to exorcise a similar spirit from their young daughter.

The only thing you're sure of in the film (after awhile) is that the entity in the flashback sequences has somehow now got its supernatural claws on the American actress, because sure as hell nothing else makes any sense.

It's a story about two brothers making a movie and looking for a location, then it turns into a story about them trying to keep a demonically possessed young woman under wraps. That's not a problem in itself (look at how well From Dusk Till Dawn turned from one thing into something else entirely on a tiny pivot), but everything that happens in both stories just feels like endless set-up.

The point of the movie seems to be a cult horror comedy possession flick, but too little of it's actually about possession, and when it is, the unfortunate victim spends the whole time tied to a bed, floating a few feet up completely comatose – but on just the right angle for the camera to make sure her pert, bikini g-string clad bottom is in the frame. It's not scary, it's not funny... it's just not anything.

The director came from shorts and commercials, and it seems his forte is still in much shorter form than this mess.

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