DVD Release Date: April
= Highest Rating
is one of those rare shot-on-video indie productions that turns
out better than it has any right to. It was the intention of
novice writer/director Justin Wingenfeld to evoke the feel of
'70s horror comics like Creepy, and in this he only minimally
succeeds; thanks to the presence of sexy Julian Wells and some
interesting editing choices the film still proves mildly entertaining.
Clocking in at a lean 75 minutes (somewhere around the average
running time of most horror pics of the 1930s and '40s), at
least it doesn't wear out its welcome.
be told the film doesn't start out all that promising. An overly-long
prologue, set in colonial times, is included merely to establish
the 'how' and 'why' of the plot's supernatural element. The
Warbeck sisters' practice of witchcraft and pagan rites leaves
them vulnerable to blackmail by a trio of town goons, led by
the scar-faced Nalder*
Michael Thomas, in melting makeup). If the ladies don't submit
to their carnal advances on a regular basis the men will notify
the authorities about the Warbecks' sacrilegious activities.
When one of the women dies after being raped in the woods, the
surviving sisters make a pact with the devil. Should any of
the Warbeck clan ever again be harmed, the perpetrators will
be made to pay... even if vengeance must come from beyond the
This clumsily-staged prologue is easily the lamest section of
the film, featuring the worst acting and dialog. Even veteran
B-movie scream queen Debbie Rochon, as the leader of the Warbeck
siblings, thoroughly bombs here. Some folks may not make it
past this point, which is unfortunate since things substantially
improve once the story flashes forward three centuries to the
Margaret (Rochon again)
isn't happy in her marriage. Husband Howard (a miscast Kevin
G. Shinnick) is inattentive, distant and boring. Depressed,
she decides to divorce him. But before she can drop the hammer
Margaret is kidnapped from a parking lot by a couple of seedy
thugs, who take her to an isolated spot and brutally knife her
to death. This was no random thrill killing, although that's
what it's supposed to look like to the police. The killers were
hired for the job by Sadie (Julian Wells of Dr.
Jekyll & Mistress Hyde), Howard's scheming, manipulative
mistress. With Margaret out of the way Howard stands to inherit
a decent chunk of dough; he'll be free to enjoy all the kinky
pleasures Sadie offers that his uptight wife never could. (Like
some 'spank-the-naughty-schoolgirl' costume play and anal sex;
"Go ahead... I'm already lubed,
baby.") Besotted Howard falls for the idea hook,
line and sinker, getting together the cash to pay the hitmen.
In reality he's being taken for a very dark ride. Sadie and
her real boyfriend plan to rip him off and blackmail
him. Of course, none of those involved in the murder plot could
ever imagine the victim coming back from
the dead as a maggot-spewing
to exact revenge. Margaret's
maiden name, you see, was Warbeck...
Crawl would be a completely
skippable exercise in low budget indie horror if not for the
way the main part of the story is told, which is non-chronologically.
The narrative (apart from the prologue and conclusion) jumps
back and forth in time, giving us different angles on events
we've already seen
people and things aren't what they initially seem to be. This
serves to make the run-of-the-mill plot a bit more interesting.
Guaranteeing your interest is Julian Wells, who plays her 'backstabbing
bitch' role with significant aplomb
it certainly doesn't hurt that the tall, slender blonde is nude
or topless in 90% of her scenes. (Come to think of it, I've
yet to see her give a bad performance in any role, regardless
of content.) Throughout, director Wingenfeld wisely stays within
the parameters of his limited funds and equipment, not attempting
to emulate the European horror flicks that seem to have inspired
him. Note to Horndogs: DTV sexploitation starlet Misty
Mundae (alias "Erin Brown", Mummy
Raider) has a glorified cameo as a hooker tricking with
the wrong john in the wrong place
although for once she doesn't get naked.
A homage to actor Reggie Nalder, the evil witchfinder "Albino"
in Mark Of The Devil
(1970). Other sinister characters in Skin
Crawl are named "Franco" and "D'Amato".
an impoverished SOV production Skin Crawl's
full-frame transfer looks pretty good, if soft problems typical
for such films, such as flaring, are otherwise kept to a minimum.
Unfortunately the audio, via a basic stereo track, comes up short
from time to time. There are occasional issues with muffled dialog
and distractingly loud ambient noises, likely because of difficulties
with live sound recording during production.
Cinema adds value to the package (and the movie) by offering a
making-of featurette and an audio commentary. Under Your Skin,
which runs 14 minutes, interviews
writer/director Wingenfeld, producer Michael Raso and star Debbie
Rochon about the film and what they were hoping to accomplish,
accentuated with behind-the-scenes footage. (Wells and Rochon
proved their commitment
above and beyond the call of
by putting live insects and
worms into their mouths for the climactic gross-out scenes...
Wells is seen gamely chugging from a styrofoam cup full of 'em!)
Much more information about the making of the movie is found in
the commentary track featuring Wingenfeld, Raso and actor/DP John
P. Fedele. They explain how the project began in 2001, with most
of the principal photography, shot on Beta video, completed over
five years ago but later digitally tweaked to give it a more 'filmic'
look. It was editor Brett Piper (a director in his own right)
who came up with the idea of cutting the bulk of the movie in
nonlinear fashion a la Pulp Fiction,
giving what would've been a standard supernatural horror yarn
an interesting twist.
Typically the folks at POP Cinema toss in a
slew of trailers for their product; this disc is no exception.
In addition to the promo for Skin Crawl
you get ten other trailers, to include such recent releases Sinful
and Chainsaw Sally. 3/26/07