If the purpose of a horror movie is to startle then this one must be counted as a success, particularly in some unforgettable gross-out moments. That doesn’t change the fact, however, that it’s standard-issue nineties straight-to-video trashola in nearly every other respect.
If you’ve seen Nick Broomfield’s 1995 documentary HEIDI FLEISS: HOLLYWOOD MADAME then you might recognize this film’s director Ivan Nagy as the interviewee who dated Fleiss and apparently assisted in her nefarious activities (it’s no accident, I assume, that a pivotal character in SKINNER is named Heidi). Broomfield’s film further alleges that Nagy was a drug dealing pimp who turned Fleiss into the police; Roger Ebert, in his review of the film, describes Nagy’s appearance as “the face of evil.” Nagy was already a television veteran when he made SKINNER in 1993—his previous credits included 1986’s INTIMATE ENCOUNTER, described by one IMDB user as “the first G-rated soft porn made-for-TV movie”—and now makes porno flicks.
Beyond that this film stands out from the glut of nineties video fodder because of the presence of the KNB EFX Group, who create some genuinely impressive, gut-churning eviscerations, and the highly eccentric cast, which appears to have been on loan from a John Waters movie: Ted Raimi, Ricki Lake and ex-underage porno starlet Traci Lords.
The Raimi essayed Skinner is a nerdy young man with problems: he’s tormented by memories of his abusive father, who once had his young son assist him in performing an autopsy. This apparently had such a profound effect on Skinner that as a grown-up he’s taken to living up to his name; when not working as a janitor at a manufacturing plant he likes to murder prostitutes and remove their skin…and then wear it over his own! He’s left Heidi, a disfigured ex-wife, in his wake, who’s dedicated her life to tracking down Skinner and ending his reign.
The kind-hearted Kerri, meanwhile, is renting out a room in her house, much to the consternation of her truck driver BF. Unfortunately for her, Skinner becomes the room’s tenant; worse, Kerri starts up a relationship with Skinner, unaware of his nighttime activities, which are growing increasingly reckless. His latest victim is a black co-worker who makes the mistake of harassing Skinner on the job. The latter gets even by skinning the guy and, in the film’s most outrageous sequence, walking the streets in his skin spouting jive. Thus attired, Skinner also poisons a dog and beats a prostitute to death. There is a happy ending, however, as Heidi manages to finally track down her hubbie, Kerri learns of his true nature and Skinner at last gets his comeuppance.
Tacky though it is, this film is reasonably well-made. That’s despite the fair-to-middling performances, generic synthesizer score and annoyingly garish music video cinematography (which tends to utilize distracting color filters, showing a distinctly eighties influence in this early-nineties production). That’s all par the course for straight to video movies like this one, of which Ivan Nagy has directed more than his share. He deserves credit for his audacity, particularly in two gotta-see-it-to-believe-it sequences, one a startlingly graphic EYES WITHOUT A FACE-inspired skin removal and the other Ted Raimi’s infamous walk down the alleyway in a black guy’s skin, which pretty much defines politically incorrect.
Director: Ivan Nagy
Producer: Brad Wyman
Screenplay: Paul Hart-Wilden
Cinematography: Gregory Littlewood
Editing: Peter Schenk
Cast: Traci Lords, Ricki Lake, Ted Raimi, David Warshofsky, Richard Schiff, Blaire Baron, Robert Eaton, Christina Engelhardt, Dewayne Williams, Time Winters, Frederika Keston, Saralee Froton