by Patrick Bromley
Skeletons in the Closet, one of the first films from Chicago-based (!) indie distributor Cow Lamp Films, is a horror anthology in the way that Two Evil Eyes is an anthology, presenting two stories that are part Creepshow and part Grindhouse. The former influence gives it the real sense of fun that runs through the film; the latter lends the movie some of the worst tendencies of modern indie horror. The result is a mixed bag that is celebratory of horror in a really fun way but constantly undone by some unfortunate stylistic choices.
It happens a whole lot in the second segment, "Chop Shop," which eventually becomes almost unwatchable thanks to all of the post-production manipulation meant to give it the "grindhouse" feel. The story itself is less compelling than the first and a lot darker, too, eventually attempting to tie the whole movie together but in a way that hardly satisfies. Plus, rather than leaving both the babysitter and Widow material as a wraparound, the filmmakers continually cut back to them watching the movies, sometimes just commenting on the action, often times just to shots of them looking at screens (there's one DePalma-esque split diopter-style shot of which I'm especially fond, with the young girl's face right up against the camera and the babysitter way in the background still in focus). Like all the print damage stuff, it disrupts any possible tension the movie generates and constantly reminds us that we're removed from the horror by, like, three extra layers.
Night of the Creeps, but at its best, it gets that feeling right. That's the stuff I'm going to carry with me. At the very least, Skeletons in the Closet made me remember what it was like to rent a bunch of horror movies on a Friday night and stay up way too late watching them. Some things don't change, I guess.
Skeletons in the Closet has its world premiere at Chicago's Davis Theater tonight and will have more screenings throughout the month.