At this particularly moment in cinema, found footage horror is here to stay. Much like the deceased Universal monsters and ‘80s era slashers, handheld camera-filmed thrillers have simply become their own subgenre, one that breeds everything from big budget blockbuster headaches to terrifying indie gems.
Seve Schelenz’s SKEW was originally filmed in 2005, a few years after the juggernaut success of The Blair Witch Project but before the current Paranormal Activity inspired boom. Though it easily stands on its own as an effective, efficient little ghostly story, it also bares the mark of its film brethren, sharing many of the same tropes we’ve come to expect with actor-held camera shots and improvised dialogue.
The story follows Simon (Robert Scattergood), a twentysomething videotaping his road trip with his best pal Richard (Richard Olak) and Richard’s girlfriend Eva (Amber Lewis). Fresh out of an argument with his own girlfriend, Simon moodily films his mini-adventure only to notice that random strangers’ faces show up distorted. The mystery deepens as Simon gradually realizes that anyone with a ‘skewed’ profile seems to die in bizarre accidental fashion. He can only clean his lens so many times before he has to face the impending horror.
Like many films of its type, SKEW takes its time in building an eerie atmosphere around its small cast. There’s something truly unnerving about Schelenz’s visuals ‘skewing’ soon-to-be victims, and the slow discoveries do well in conjunction with the occasional tense jump scare. Some of the film’s drawbacks are unfortunately more a product of bad timing: at this point in 2011, we’ve seen our share of pretty, fairly narcissistic young people falling victim to technology-inspired horrors, and nothing in SKEW’s characterization really stands out (though Amber Lewis’ Eva emerges an easily believable woman). Occasionally, we have to deal with the horrors of shaky cam and ‘natural’ dialogue that feels a tad forced, but for most of its running time, SKEW is an immensely creepy and economic thriller that keeps its audience on edge.
SKEW recently won the Independent Spirit Award at Sydney’s A Night of Horror International Film Festival and will continue a festival run with showings at the Big Island Film Festival in Hawaii, the Phoenix Fear Film Festival, Seattle’s True Independent Film Festival, and New Jersey’s Lighthouse International Film Festival. You can learn more at SKEW’s IMDB page at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1808477.