Horror anthologies are rather common these days and for the most part, their structures have become very stale. I've grown rather tired of seeing horror anthologies that are just random shorts, held together by a shoestring plot. Luckily, Skeletons in the Closet from directors Tony Wash and Ben Lewandowski isn't one of them. This charming ode to VHS horror is a very well-constructed anthology that features all of the makings of any other anthology, housed in a Tales From the Crypt-esque package. Meaning, there's a story to follow if you pay attention, but there's also a lot of fun to be had if you're just looking for something new to watch.
The film begins with Jamie, a young girl who's obsessed with horror comics and a weekly late-night horror show titled, you guessed it, Skeletons in the Closet, as she waits for this week's show to begin. Her new babysitter, Tina, antagonizes her from the couch, making rude comments about what Jamie chooses to read and watch. Right from the start, you know that the two aren't going to get along. The tension between them builds throughout the film and ends in a rather twisted fashion. One thing that I absolutely love about Skeletons in the Closet is that it's very self-aware of what kind of film it is and the tone that it chooses to carry, even the cable station’s slogan is, “Channel 13, fuck yeah!” It just doesn't get much better than that!
Skeletons in the Closet, the in-movie show, features The Widow watching horror films in the basement with her murdered husband, Charlie. This adds a very unique feel to the film, as it features two people watching TV, watching two other's watch horror segments, so you get the reactions from the characters inside the show and the reactions of Jamie and Tina. This is a nice touch that really contributes to the depth of the film as a whole. I should also mention that there's an escaped psychopath on the loose who's stalking the neighborhood. I highly admire the team behind the film for taking such an ambitious approach and pulling it off. There's major tension to be had on every screen, which is broken up by much-appreciated and hilarious conversations between The Widow and Charlie.
The film is essentially made up of four shorts (five if you include the show) that stand rather well on their own, some stronger than others, and they're all held together by a common narrative. This is where the paying attention comes into play, If think deeply and connect the dots, you'll find a whole new level of enjoyment. If not, I'm certain you find many other aspects to keep you smiling. From the late-night, channel-surfing aesthetic to the "adjust your tracking" text and static that occasionally appear on the screen, Wash and Lewandowski profess their love for 80's cinema in great fashion. There's even a sizzle reel montage featuring black and white horror classics like, The House on Haunted Hill and Night of the Living Dead, a welcome addition that displays the filmmakers passion for horror as a whole.
I don't want to delve too deep into the shorts and risk ruining things for someone interested in the narrative. I just want to highlight the first, which follows a mother and daughter who are paying a visit a very creepy grandmother. This is by far the strongest and most unnerving short of the film, it really carries the Tales From the Crypt/Darkside vibe. I really enjoyed it and I'll never look at grandmas the same way again. The stories that follow are less interesting and this is honestly my only problem with Skeletons in the Closet. I would've like to have seen the creepiness of the first story continue throughout all the other segments. Though, this is a rather small issue in the grand scope of things.
I recently reviewed Tony Wash's The Rake and was blown away by some of the shots in the film, I found myself feeling some of those same emotions with Skeletons. The cinematography is rather impressive once again, so props to the camera team. The soundtrack fits the whole 80's vibe very well, synths and guitars, what more do you need? I thought that all of the cast's performances really helped contribute to the tongue-in-cheek feel of the film, with a spotlight on Charlie, I absolutely adored his cadaver humor.
Skeletons in the Closet is a film that I went into with high expectations and those expectations were met. If you're looking for a fun horror anthology to add to your Halloween watch list, look no further. I can almost guarantee that this one will satisfy lovers of 80's B-movie cinema. Thought my time with the Scotchworthy crew has been short, I very much look forward to future projects from these filmmakers! Now, I vote that Skeletons in the Closet be made into its own anthology series, I'd definitely love to see more done with the show's characters. Fuck yeah!
Skeletons in the Closet will host its World Premiere in Chicago tomorrow, September 7th. You can get your tickets to the show HERE.