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Skeletons

Other // Unrated // October 19, 2010
List Price: $24.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Tyler Foster | posted December 30, 2010 | E-mail the Author
Everyone has a skeleton in their closet, and Davis (Ed Gaughan) and Bennett (David Buckley) are here to dig them up. Field operatives for a vaguely-defined business aimed at unveiling people's deepest secrets, the two walk across the British landscape wearing suits and loafers, carrying beat-up wooden briefcases and artfully-drawn sketches of the houses they're meant to stop at. At each one, after a lengthy contract-signing session, the two head upstairs, whip out some old-fashioned-looking techno-gadgets, and hop through the closet doors into people's minds.

Skeletons is a movie that many people will enjoy. I can objectively state that it has a great premise, an appealing cast, and some very funny gags, even if it didn't do much for me on a personal level. One of the problems with films today is that people are so focused on premise rather than plot, and as a result too many films take forever to get to the "point", per se. All of the information in the above paragraph is the exact same kind of info one will find in a trailer, or on the movie's DVD box, but the film plods along for a good 20 minutes, half-unveiling each little detail. It's a slog that nearly foiled me despite my interest in the film.

The actual story of the film concerns a specific customer named Jane (Paprika Steen), who is hoping the two can suss out what happened to her husband. He disappeared without a trace some years ago, and in the meantime, she cheerfully spends her days digging holes in the yard, hoping to unearth his body, complete with a map in her kitchen of where she's already dug ("Wouldn't want to dig in the same place twice -- that'd be crazy, wouldn't it!" she chuckles). At the same time, both men are distracted (Davis has been messing around with a dangerous side procedure that allows him to go into his own memories, and Bennett has caught him doing it), plus on top of that, their boss, The Colonel (Jason Isaacs) is dangling a promotion over their heads upon a job well done.

The film picks up some when the two arrive at Jane's place, but after another 20 minutes of Jane's silent, oddball daughter Rebecca (Tuppence Middleton) wandering around and Davis becoming irritated by Bennett prying at him, the film finally kicks into high gear when the two attempt to use their gear. Through a series of unexpected turns, both Davis and Rebecca step into the spotlight, and both actors really ramp up the charisma as the humor takes a distinct shift from "bickering" to "banter". Isaacs is also agreeably goofy, although his growling delivery (The Colonel has an unexplained neck scar) reduces more than a few of his lines to indistinguishable mumbles.

Skeletons is writer/director Nick Whitfield's first feature film, and he shows more than a handful of promise here. On what must've been a limited budget, he brings what might've been a hokey sci-fi concept to life with a certain droll, dry, British humor that really works, and the film's cinematography (by Zac Nicholson) is often striking, tricking the viewer into believing the whole project has more scope and scale than it actually does. It's only too bad that, like most first-time filmmakers, he's fallen prey to a relatively simple trap: the pieces are perfect, but the whole they form could use more work.

The DVD
Skeletons has nicely-designed artwork on both the front and back sides, although the inky blacks on the rear cover blot out the billing block. No insert is included.

The Video and Audio
The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation by IndiePix is wildly uneven. In well-lit scenes, the film will often look gorgeous, representing the film's brownish palette with crystal clarity and fine detail. In at least one shot (of Isaacs, standing in an outdoor shack), I felt I might be watching a Blu-Ray, with the thin lines on his shirt and the glowing natural light represented so well. Yet, other scenes display jagged edges and artifacting, including some -- but not all -- of the nighttime scenes.

Sound is a less-impressive Dolby Digital 2.0. I hate to admit it, but I'm not much of an audiophile -- usually my assessment of a surround track is based solely how much I detect each of the speakers being used -- but I really felt like Skeletons' dialogue could've benefitted greatly from a 5.1 mix to separate it more from ambient background noise. Since 2.0 was the method of choice, subtitles or captions would've been appreciated as a second choice, but neither are present on the disc. A major oversight.

The Extras
Six deleted scenes (8:58) are included. The first might've provided a little more of the film's enjoyable goofiness at the beginning, another features a silent bit of Jason Isaacs goofing around, and it's hard to resist any chunk of conversation that includes the phrase "cat-faced women from the 1940's", but they're nothing too remarkable. The other extra is a series of three Viral Videos (7:56), which are a combination of Q&A/interview footage and clips from the film.

Trailers for Women Without Men and Lions of Punjab Presents play before the menu. The original theatrical trailer for Skeletons is accessible on the special features menu.

Conclusion
Although I expect others will like Skeletons more than I did -- I like dry British humor, but the beginning was perhaps too dry for my tastes -- I'm still only going to suggest a rental for the film, since the audio is muddy and free of any hearing-impaired help, and the extras package is a little lacking.


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