SKEW (2011) Review

Directed by: Sevé Schelenz
Starring: Rob Scattergood, Amber Lewis, Richard Olak

Reviewing an independent film is always a little different from reviewing a big budget Hollywood film. I usually tend to be a little lenient and take into consideration all of the financial and time constraints etc. But at the same time  I try not to be too soft, because since indie filmmakers are usually just starting out I think it's important that they are made aware of any weak points in their films which can be improved upon. These days anybody with a video camera and a bunch of friends can make their own film. The majority are absolute shit, but every now and then you stumble upon one which is just as entertaining and clever as any big budget blockbuster. After watching SKEW I think I can honestly say that it falls firmly in the second category.

SKEW is an independent psychological horror film from Canadian director Sevé Schelenz and it is his feature length directorial debut. It is shot in a POV / found-footage style and concerns three friends who on a road trip which turns bad. I know that found footage type movies have been popping up all over the place over the last few years and a lot of people are probably sick of them, but don't let that put you off. This entire movie is shown through the lens of a handheld camera but rather than just being a portal into the film, the video camera is actually an integral part of the storyline.

Simon, Eva and Richard are three friends who embark on what is apparently a long-awaited road trip. Richard (Olak) and Eva (Lewis) are obviously in a relationship while Simon (Scattergood) seems to be the third wheel as his girlfriend has refused to come on the trip with them. This is our first hint that there is trouble brewing. The trio travel the roads and highways, stopping at offbeat tourist attractions like the 'world's biggest chair' and 'world's biggest Viking head' and so on. Tho whole time Simon is videotaping absolutely everything. It turns out that Simon has a very personal reason for documenting everything but I'll leave that for you to find out yourself.  His constant filming however starts to get on Richard and Eva's nerves and things begin to get tense between the three friends. Things escalate even more when Simon realizes a terrible and fatal truth about the video camera. Simon's grip on reality seems to be slipping and the friends' relationship begins to decay further until finally ending in the brutal and shocking conclusion.

POV / found footage films have been done to death in recent years. Paranormal Activity, REC, Cloverfield, Apollo 18, The Devil Inside are just a few and there are a ton more in the pipeline. An interesting fact about SKEW though is that it was filmed in 2005, so it actually predates all of the movies I've just mentioned. While it's still not one of the originals of this sub-genre, at least it cannot be accused of trying to capitalize on the recent success of movies like PA and The Devil Inside. And it's a very original spin on the tired sub-genre. 
The acting is great, especially for a bunch of amateurs with hardly any other credits on their resumes. At times it was a little awkward but it's not distracting or annoying, and it definitely didn't detract from the movie overall.  The effects both practical and CGI are used sparingly and to good effect, although they do display the small budget fairly clearly.  As a horror film SKEW isn't really as scary as it is unsettling. There are only a couple of cheap jump-scares which are effective but as it is a psychological horror the movie does depend mostly on atmosphere and tension, both of which it does well.

All in all SKEW is a very entertaining and engaging film. It does have its flaws which include the beginning dragging on a bit slow, some awkward acting, a few scenes going on perhaps a little longer than they should and less than perfect effects but in the end most of these are easy to overlook, especially after you see the final scenes and ambiguous ending. SKEW is definitely worth your time.

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