Monday, May 7, 2012

Skew (2011)

Probably one of the more confusing movies I seen, Skew's greatest obstacle is its apparently lofty aims of cerebral profundity.  Or perhaps this is one of the better indie films.  I just can't decide because, for every negative of the movie I find a positive, and for that reason I'm simply left unsettled, without any closure.  One thing I can say with certainty: this movie begs for a re-watch, and I honestly wouldn't mind sitting through it again.

That I'm considering a re-watch is amusing to me now because within the first half hour I found myself thinking, I will never suffer through this again.  Within another ten minutes I was thinking, What is the real plot here?  My expectations were heightened by the film's opening quote.  Most of these films open with a quote from a more familiar figure (to most of the demographic), like, say, Poe or Lovecraft.  But Skew opens on a quote from none other than the 19th century French literary titan Honoré de Balzac.  A student of literature, familiar with French titans such as Balzac, Rimbaud, Rabelais, Verlaine, et al., this impressed me.  It said to me that this write was deeper than most, influenced by more profound literature.  Later I would find that the writer/director is the Canadian Sevé Schelenz.  (I would also find that the film was 6 years in the making, mostly due to the FX and budgeting.)

Then we're introduced to a trio of some of the most annoying characters I've ever encountered.  I couldn't em/sympathize with any of them at any time throughout the duration of the film.  Whiny, flimsy, volatile, frustrating characters, they are.  It only takes about fifteen minutes to realize what's going on between two of the characters, so I'm not sure if the filmmaker intended for it to be that way or not.  Either way, it's a subplot that permeates the movie and appears to be an intentionally mysterious element to keep the audience engaged.  I imagine a group of people sitting in a room with this script, debating on whether it's too subtle or not, and finally leaning toward the more obvious approach.  The final product is an insult to the audience's intelligence.  Or is it a plot device that is used to distract us from that more important clues?

The mockumentary style, brought to popularity by The Blair Witch Project, is growing old, so it's always interesting to see how certain things will be explained.  I can't remember exactly why our videographer, Simon, has the camera or why he's shooting (other than for fun), but it's a simple little recorder without a flipscreen (as we're specifically told in the film).  Simon also establishes that he does not care to be on camera, and the film sticks with that (except for a brief moment on a police station security camera, and even then we don't see Simon's face).  And with the established constraint that we're going to stay in  the camera's/Simon's perspective, the filmmakers have the obstacle of explaining underlying plot points while dealing with how to get the explanations on film for the audience.  No easy feat.  But Skew has the answer: the camera turns itself on.

And now for a few words about the "main" plot, or what we can think of as the marketed plot.  For this, the film borrows from Final Destination and The Ring, and the end product isn't moving in the least.  There's no creative factor, and there's no mystery (for all of Final Destination's failures, it has always prided itself on inventive deaths and intense buildups).  This plot does, however, setup three of the more unusual scenes in the movie, all involving people who have recently been killed.  These little scares were a mixed bag because (a) they were completely unexpected and inexplicable; and (b) they were completely outside of the scope of the mockumentary subgenre.  Then again, perhaps this is the change-up we're looking for to breathe new life into the genre?  Whatever the explanation for these choices, I don't think the marketed plot is the one the film spent its efforts to develop.

The ending is one of the strangest and most confusing endings I've ever seen.  Or is it the most brilliant ending that begs the viewer to watch the movie again?  (I'll update this post once I've re-watched the film, and let you know!)  Suddenly the film becomes a psychological breakdown that raises a myriad questions.  The whole "what's real" thing starts going on.  At the same time, though, there is no great epiphany.  There is no a-ha! moment.  Just before the movie ends, with several unresolved points that are still driving me crazy, the film is rewound (not for the first time) to moments that occurred before the point at which the movie started.  At first, I was delighted, and I sat up in my chair so as to really take in what they were going to unfold.  The film had me completely engrossed.  Unfortunately, the film only "revealed" explanations I'd ascertained in the first part of the movie.  And not content with leaving me completely disappointed, the film gives one final shot that is rewound a couple times and played back the last time with the slow-step function so as to show an image that I must assume is the key to this movie.

My review seems quite negative.  The only hope is that re-watching the film unlocks the secret of its greatness.  Based on the final confusing shot, I must assume that the movie has subtle clues scattered throughout, clues which the viewer overlooks the first time for their subtlety.  The other explanation is that it's one of these films that prides itself on its inexplicability, which I don't usually favor unless its done strikingly well.  To me that screams of someone who is intelligent and does not want to be able to be explained (forced profundity).  Then again, I'm a huge fan of David Lynch, so, Skew, you'd better have something  to show me this second time around!


  1. hi chris, just discovered your review of "skew" and wanted to thank you for taking the time to watch the film and reviewing it. that's pretty cool man. sorry to hear you may be confused on a few story points of the film. feel free to drop me a line through a PM on the "skew" imdb page if you have any questions and i'd be more than happy to shed some insight on them. if not, and you'd like to figure it out yourself, i completely understand. that's definitely half the fun of it. take care. sevé schelenz - writer/director "skew"

  2. Salut Sevé! Merci pour votre comment sur mon blog! J'espère que vous me trouvez sympa malgré l'ambivalence. Je vais voir votre film une fois plus sans aide, et ensuite je vais faire mes pensées--peut-être je peux envoyer le mel à vous. Encore, merci beaucoup; c'est incroyable; un directeur et écrivain visiter moi! Je crois que vous êtes génial et c'est grand que vous aimez votre l'art.