Staunton Hill

Dead Skin Mask

At first glance I thought this was yet another fan boy director doing a cut and paste job on his favourite films –  Cameron Romero sure sounds like a fanboy’s name. As it turns out, Cameron is the son of Monsieur George Romero. Following in his father’s footsteps he sets foot into the horror genre. Unlike his father though, whose debut still ranks as one of the greatest horror movies of all time, Romero Junior’s first effort is a mostly uninspired, tired, an unoriginal film with a story we have seen time and time again. It’s not without its charms though; it is still enjoyable, mostly well acted, has a few interesting and gory scenes, and the lad seems to know what to do with a camera. The main faults of the film are that there simply isn’t anything new, and it doesn’t ever come close to being scary.

Inexplicably set in 1969 (supposedly to give some sort of tone or background of racism, freedom marches, time changing) we follow a group of friends on their cross-country trip to some Rally. Naturally they take the scenic route a la Texas Chainsaw, Hills Have Eyes, et al. A series of mishaps finds them spending the night in a large farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. Cue the entrance of some freakish yokels with murderous intent and a convoluted, ill examined back story, and what follows is a satisfying enough collection of chase, bloody torture, and death scenes.

As I said earlier, the acting from the cast of largely unknowns is fine, and Romero at least spends the time letting us get to know the characters before anything terrible happens to them. The first half of the movie is set up as we meet each character and learn of their relationships within the group. None of them are particularly interesting, though neither are they annoying. Perhaps with better writing we could have come to feel some sympathy and fear towards them after what happens. The trio of weirdos are good fun, yet another dysfunctional horror family to add to the list – but what are their motives – they’re crazy? Money? Are they a religious cult? Are they simply looking after their son? All of these are suggested, none of them seem clear. Then again, Leatherface didn’t have a motive, he just happened to have a chainsaw.

The death scenes are nice enough – decent effects in all, but it seemed like they ran out of budget at some point as we don’t get to see they demise of certain characters, and in other scenes we get sneaky edits rather than the gore of others. It’s unusual to have
one genius in the family when it comes to making films, but with time perhaps the new Romero can make something that us old Romero fans can be proud of.

* Review originally written in 2010

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