Skull Heads (DVD)
Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Robin Sydney, Samantha Light, Steve Kramer, Rane Jameson, Kim Argetsinger
Directed by Charles Band
Skull Heads opens with 18-year-old Naomi being tied to a medieval rack by her father for committing the grievous sin of bringing a cellular phone into her family's home. And you thought your parents were strict.
The Arkoffs are a very traditional family inasmuch as they live in a castle in Italy shunning the outside world, people and technology. Dad is a domineering jerk. Mom is something of a shrew. Uncle Peter is a horny retard. Mom frequently pays grandfather, visually obscured and bedridden, a visit to bring food and read Edgar Allan Poe stories.
Why Naomi and her parents are American without a hint of Italian in their voice despite having spent their entire lives in this Italian castle is one of life's great mysteries.
But back to Naomi, who herself is a bit on the daffy side. How could she not be living as a prisoner in a remote castle with a father whose idea of disciplining a child involves taking her to the dungeon downstairs? She just wants to experience the world, go to college, and meet new people. Naomi is thrilled when a Hollywood producer shows up wanting to use the castle as a shooting location for a new movie. Dad cannot kick them out fast enough because as he repeatedly states, "Nothing good can come from strangers." Worst of all, he might be right.
Skull Heads hearkens back to the Full Moon features of the Nineties, the ones shot in Italy or Romania where much of the film centered on idiosyncratic characters in a Gothic locale, the ones where Sherilyn Fenn got it on with werewolves and mini-monsters prowled the hallways of gloomy manors. One particular Full Moon feature I am strongly reminded of is the very first Subspecies. Not just because of the castle and ancestral family dynamics; that film was also marketed around these strange little creatures that turned out to not have much screen time and contributed next to nothing to the action.
The Skull Heads are said to be 200-year-old protectors of the castle. Being the stuff of centuries old Italian legend must explain why their smiley face skull heads look more like modern skateboard logos - imagine if Jack Skellington mated with Evil Ernie's smiley button. They have the power to raise the dead, which, aside from shooting laser beams from their eyes to do so, is their sole contribution to the film. While it's nice that Charles Band resisted the urge to just make another killer puppet creature feature, I don't think I'll be the only person to complain that the very critters the movie is named after, the whole selling point of the film, are little more than sideline spectators. We're talking inarticulate except for the ability to move their arms and turn their heads.
That said, perhaps attribute it to the power of very low expectations, but I didn't mind Skull Heads at all. I was actually enjoying the oddness and the build-up, but the payoff is a bit underwhelming and not just because the title creatures aren't even active participants in the mayhem. The father is such an ogre I wanted to see him get what was coming to him, not actually end up being proven right.
Much of what makes Skull Heads work is due to the performances, in particular that of Robin Sydney ("Masters of Horror: Right to Die" and other recent Charlie Band productions) as the sympathetic Naomi. She successfully carries the film on her shoulders - and boobs.
The lovely Miss Sydney has one of the most gratuitous nude scenes you will ever see; a full minute of her standing naked in front of a mirror caressing her body and making out with her own arm. The artistic side of Charles Band would argue this scene was an insight into her suppressed sexuality and longing for a boyfriend. The reality of the situation being Charles Band hoping a really cute girl with a very nice rack naked onscreen for a prolonged period of time will help you forget that half the movie had transpired and the very things the movie is named after haven't done a damn thing.
2 1/2 out of 5
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