Skinned Deep

Skinned Deep~ 2004, Gabe Bartalos

In the bonus features on the Skinned Deep DVD, various cast and crew members speak of director Gabriel Bartalos as though he were some sort of mad genius… That’s a hard sell. I just don’t think if I can buy that, however, I will say this; there is a moment in Skinned Deep where the movie suddenly takes a hard right turn out of inept, and into insane. After this point, the rest of the film is cast an an entirely new light, it stops feeling like it deserves to be lopped in with other low budget, shot on video horror films of the era, like O-Zone/Street Zombies or Darkwalker, and more like it should be viewed as landing somewhere between Basket Case 2/3 and The Last House on Dead End Street. Having seen the whole film, it’s clear that Skinned Deep is a special case. That being said, I’m not sure how to feel about it.

The plot feels unimportant; it’s your typical “Girl get’s kidnapped by mutants and weirdos in the middle of nowhere” type scenario, a cross pollinated descendant of both The Hills Have Eyes and Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, but the experience feels more like House of 1000 Corpses by way of Fred Olen Ray. The frustrating thing about the movie is that while some areas of the film’s production appear feeble or dangerously malnourished, there are other areas where talent, effort, and forethought are incredibly evident. Again, I’m not one to jump on the “Bartalos is a genius” bandwagon, but I get the feeling that with a proper budget and a good producer to keep things on track, he might be able to achieve something really special. As it is, this film’s execution is incredibly uneven, and there are more than enough flaws to turn off any audience which isn’t accustomed to this sort of straight to video bullshit.

No review of Skinned Deep would be complete without addressing the film’s real claim to fame, however, and that is the fight scene between Shakes, and Plates. Let’s get into this:

In the movie, Veteran little person actor Warwick Davis plays a deranged mutant (I guess?) called Plates, a name he earned due to his lethal use of dinnerware as projectile weaponry. Yep, he wings dishes at people. Plates and his tribe of freaks come up against a motorcycle gang made up of senior citizens, and one of these over the hill roughians is Shakes, an old man, who shakes a lot. With the stage set, the confrontation between bikers and mutants blossoms in a Psychotronic treasure which is the full on, knock down, drag out, King Kong VS Godzilla style fist fight of the New Millennium; the battle between a shaky old man and a dwarf who throws dishes at people. The Shakes VS Plates scene is worth the cost of admission alone. O-Zone can’t compete with that shit.

So, Bartalos has done lots of stuff, but he’s only directed one other film, which is a shame. I’d like to see more out of him. As it is, Skinned Deep is a curiosity, it doesn’t fit in with it’s peers, and is not so easily dismissed as other shot on video horror films of the past twenty years. I recommend it, because of the Shakes VS Plates scene, but I can’t honestly say that you will like it. More than anything else,  this movie exists as a strange detour, and as evidence that Bartalos may be some sort of relatively undiscovered talent waiting for an opportunity.

Of course, who knows what we would get out of him if he had to play by studio rules.


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Deadly Friend ~ 1986, Wes Craven, USA



















For most horror enthusiasts, the name Wes Craven is spoken with an air of reverence. After all, this is the man who gave us classics, like Nightmare on Elm Street, Last House on the Left, and The Hills Have Eyes, but it’s time for some inconvenient truth, friends; this man’s body of work is not all slam dunks. No, Wes Craven is also responsible for more than a few serious pieces of shit. And with that….

Deadly Friend follows Paul, the new kid, having just moved into town with his parents, and his big, stupid robot, BB.

BB Mows the Lawn

Yeah, the movie is mostly about a robot. I know the trailer did not prepare you for that… But it is. Anyway! Paul designed, programmed and built BB, because this was the 80’s, and in the 80’s any 11 year old with glasses and a tree fort was more than capable of building a laser, a spaceship, or a fully functioning android. Physically, BB looks like your typical Johnny 5/Wall*E type robot, but his temperament is much nastier. He also has a bizarre way of speaking which, to pretty much anyone living or dead, seems puzzlingly out of character for a damn robot. He mostly communicates in a series of raspy utterances and snickers, like how an evil baby caveman might have spoken. Actually, he sounds a lot like the Gremlins do, as well. Really, I have to assume that the people who made this movie didn’t actually understand what a robot was.

So, soon after arriving in town, Paul and BB make some friends, including a local girl named Samantha, whom Paul, of course, has the hots for. Samantha comes from an abusive home… “How abusive is it?” Well, it’s so abusive that her dad murders her. Paul is crushed, Samantha was his friend, and easily the most attractive girl to ever just accept that his best pal is a four ton boxy robot caveman baby of his own design. Knowing that only his keen teen intellect can reverse the brain death and decay Samantha’s lifeless corpse has suffered through being dead for hours upon hours, Paul, who doesn’t understand hubris, breaks into the morgue and implants BB’s robot circuit boards onto her brain. There should have never been any question as to if this was going to work, because of course it does, Samantha is back and the same as she ever was, save for the fact that she is now BB in Samantha’s body, and she now kills people. One of the people she kills is that cranky old monster from The Goonies, and it is, unquestionably, the one cool moment in the entire movie. Here it is, so you don’t have to sit through the rest of this dud.

If you feel hesitant to suspend your disbelief enough to accept what I’ve described above, then Deadly Friend is indeed nothing you want to tangle with, because it only get’s worse from there. The film ends with a new, more humanoid BB tearing out from inside Samantha’s empty corpse, because somehow the tiny slab of silicon and copper stuck onto her brain managed to reconstitute her entire body into some sort of terminator exoskeleton or something. It’s really hard to imagine that there was a time in man’s history when the concept of robotics was so badly misunderstood by anyone,  and I feel confident stating that Deadly Friend is not proof of ignorance, it’s proof of stupidity.

So, Deadly Friend really, really sucks. The story is unforgivably stupid, and reliant on concepts that only a child would accept, but with subject matter far out of the range of what is appropriate for a child. The production is adequate, but who cares how well Deadly Friend is made, it’s DEADLY FRIEND! You can follow the recipe perfectly, but if the dish you’re crafting is dog feces soup, no one will compliment your cooking. The truth is, Deadly Friend is only worth seeing if you’re the kind of person who enjoys the DIY MST3K movie experience, as I do. If that’s what you want, here it is, it will suit you nicely. Even so, the move isn’t very likable, so I am forced to grade it harshly.

Also noteworthy; the theme song that plays over the credits. It’s just spooky tones, funky bass lines, and voices saying “BB!” Over and over. Did these people really think that the new, franchise spawning horror icon of American Cinema was going to be this lame droid? Clearly, the studio didn’t, because if you watched the trailer above, you’ll see that any reference to BB or robots is missing altogether. That’s the case with most of the press materials I’ve dug up in researching this film. Pretty funny. “Robot? What robot? Listen, just go see the movie.”


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