Skeleton Man review


They say that in a mon­ster movie, it’s always best to keep its appear­ance under wraps for as long as pos­sible. It helps to build ten­sion and fear, work­ing towards that ter­ri­fy­ing moment when one of the prot­ag­on­ists — along with the audi­ence — bears wit­ness to the monster’s full, hideous vis­age for the first time. This is the point in the story where there is no going back. It’s now a basic fight for sur­vival between hero and monster.

In Skel­eton Man, I think they real­ised they had the movie world’s lamest mon­ster design ever, so they reveal it almost straight away, to avoid a keener sense of dis­ap­point­ment later on. Think of the movie mon­ster greats like Michael Myers, the Alien, Jason Vorhees, Freddy Krueger, and the Pred­ator. Then take a look at Skel­eton Man…

That’s right. They basic­ally bought a Hal­loween skull mask, and then fin­ished it off with… well, I’m not sure what they fin­ished it off with. Some­times, Skel­eton Man seems to be wear­ing a raggedy old cloak which is all torn up and full of holes. Other times, he seems to be wear­ing one of these…

Don’t tell Tesco that I used one of their cheap product ranges to describe Skel­eton Man’s cos­tume, as I fear they might sue me for sul­ly­ing the good name of their bar­gain bin liners (which are always tear­ing as they’re too thin, I might add). As cos­tume designs go, it really is appalling. And yes, I real­ise I used a pic­ture of a hot babe in a Freddy Krueger out­fit, rather than the actual Freddy Krueger, but it’s only fur­ther evid­ence of just how rub­bish the Skel­eton Man cos­tume really is. Even the hot babe looks scarier!

The story begins at a house where some old pro­fessor is busy brush­ing the dirt off a vase which he’s found at an Indian burial site. His­tory tells us that digs at Indian burial sites never go accord­ing to plan. And sure enough, Skel­eton Man shows up to col­lect a skull that belongs to him, mak­ing short work of the pro­fessor and his wife. He gives them a right good old chop­ping with an axe. To give the film some credit, it’s a blood-soaked kill, which is sure to please your aver­age gorehound.

Halfway through the scene though, he dis­penses with the axe, and gets out a sword. This is the first example of the film’s makers being unable to decide upon a single, iconic look­ing weapon. Even a fairly rub­bish bad guy like the fish­er­man from I Know What You Did Last Sum­mer had a hook, and stuck with it. If you’re a mon­strous killing machine who nav­ig­ates the twi­light realm between this world and the next, you’ve got to keep it simple. Choose your weapon and stick to it. Humans will see you as a single-minded indi­vidual, and fear you all the more.

Dur­ing the course of the movie, Skel­eton Man uses an axe, a sword, a spear, and a bow and arrow. The last one he uses to shoot down a heli­copter. When he hasn’t got any weapons, he just kind of pushes people over with his hands. Or holds people up in the air, where they seem to scream a lot, even if Skel­eton Man doesn’t actu­ally seem to be doing much to them, until sud­denly they’re dead.

Here, he takes out an inno­cent fish­er­man. Michael Rooker’s Delta Force squad are of little use, and can only sit and won­der at the blood curd­ling scream. Did they hear something?

There’s a kind of inde­cis­ive­ness that per­meates the whole film: it can’t work out what on earth it wants to be. It’s a big old stinky stew of bits from bet­ter movies, most not­ably Pred­ator. Skel­eton Man has, for no reason I can fathom, Predator-style thermal vis­ion. He also warps in and out of exist­ence at ran­dom, to escape bul­lets and explo­sions from Michael Rooker’s Delta Force squad. And then other times he doesn’t bother, stag­ger­ing around like he’s drunk (in all fair­ness, the guy in the Skel­eton Man cos­tume prob­ably needed to be drunk just get through a day’s filming).

Rooker’s Delta Force squad is, bizar­rely, her­al­ded as an “Under­cover” Search & Res­cue Team. Why they’re under­cover in the middle of a forest that isn’t behind enemy lines or any­thing, is an unsolved mys­tery I will take to my grave. I think it might just be a very flimsy excuse to add four babes of vari­ous hair types to the team. Here’s the babe addi­tions to the team, along with their names, spe­cial­ist skills, and hair type.

They’re all pretty use­less, and most of them are rap­idly dis­patched, usu­ally through every fault of their own. Hav­ing said that, they’re not much worse than the guys in the team, and they’re sup­posed to be hard­core Delta Force, trained to within an inch of their lives. Even Michael Rooker, the leader of the squad and sup­posedly battle hardened through vari­ous cam­paigns in volat­ile hot­spots around the globe, finds him­self strug­gling with the forest itself, let alone the evil pres­ence that stalks it, in one of the films fun­ni­est scenes, below…

Oddly enough, on the back of the DVD box it says the run­ning time is 86 minutes. Yet my DVD player showed a total run­ning time of 2 hours. You can only ima­gine my trep­id­a­tion as the film neared the end of it’s 86 minutes. Was it not going to end? Had I some­how got hold of a bootleg copy which had a spe­cial, exten­ded director’s cut? I was grit­ting my teeth, and gird­ing my loins in readiness.

Thank­fully, it turned out to be just an extra thirty minutes of a single black screen. Almost like they’d ran out of shit to fill the disc up with. I watched every single minute of that black screen. And in com­par­ison to the film, it was pure bliss. Like Rooker and his battle against stray branches, watch­ing Skel­eton Man often feels like a fight for sur­vival against impossible odds. If you can make it through, well done. I’m recom­mend­ing you to Delta Force!