By: Mark R. Hasan
Starring: Ted Raimi, Ricki Lake, and Traci Lords
Directed by Ivan Nagy
More than 25 years after its release, this oddity made at the end of the slasher wave still retains its allure as a sometimes gruesome serial killer entry made by Heidi Fleiss’ ex-boyfriend…. and reported pimp.
‘Denny’ Skinner (Ted Raimi) indulges in his own brand of Ed Gein Syndrome, killing prostitutes and wearing their crudely stitched epidermal layers for arousal, but he’s somewhat conflicted by a slightly normal attraction to landlord Kerry Tate (Ricki Lake), caught in a lousy marriage with an underpaid, rarely home trucker. Denny sweats and gyrates outside of Kerry’s bedroom door at night, but spends most of his waking hours trolling the seedy industrial lands of Los Angeles, always carrying a noisy, unkempt satchel of knives and filleting accoutrements for victims guaranteed to be surprised when he emerges in costume.
SKINNER’s first third sets up a potentially intriguing through-line featuring Heidi’s (Traci Lords), Denny’s sophomoric first victim who survived a partial flaying and carries her own revenge satchel of goodies, but her sleuthing & stalking is almost undone by Paul Hart-Wilden’s sophomoric script, which doesn’t offer many novelties beyond hooker suits… and yet the clumsy structure, variable performances, and workmanlike direction by Ivan Nagy still ooze a palpable weirdness. KNB’s effects are fun and disgusting, Lords has a few good slices of tormented gravitas, Lake transcends a generic heroine with her genuine amiability, and Richard Schiff (!) shines as a sleazy motel manager obsessed with Heidi. The interviews in Severin’s fantastic Blu-ray offer strikingly different yet compelling views on the film, with Raimi acknowledging the glaring tastelessness of the ‘black suit’ sequence, editor Jeremy Kasten (WIZARD OF GORE) detailing the messy post-production phase, and Hart-Wilden’s truly noble quest in tracking down the negative for this gorgeous 4K-derived transfer. Nagy also speaks from the grave in an archival Q&A, revealing the charm of this Grammy-winning album photographer who migrated to B-films, TV banalities, Ms. Fleiss, and direct-to-video erotica before passing away in 2015.