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!