Ever since The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, I Spit On Your Grave and other down-to-earth cult films, the sub-genre has insatiably grown without losing its special touch. Each time, we leave fantasy behind and the only thing that remains is very credible and crude violence. Skinned Alive knows these facts but takes a new direction while keeping certain elements of the genre.
It is not the first time that a low-budget movie imitates a classic without resisting the temptation of turning it into a joke. Skinned Alive doesn’t hide its nostalgic recreation of the solid Texas Chain Saw Massacre. It reminds us that humans are truly capable of violence, torture and insanity but not in the goal of imposing a vision of morality or of troubling the audience. This film is first and foremost a comedy. The sound of a spring can be heard when a character has his butt cheek pinched and a gun can be heard when another actor is pointed at.
This is sadly a problem. It is hard to concentrate on anything other than the very childish humour presented to us in this film. They never take any breaks and it is so hard to laugh at these jokes that it is sometimes difficult not to take pity on the crew. If the film assembly had succeeded and if the movie, taken as a whole, didn’t resemble a pile of jokes that only make producers laugh, something truly interesting could have been created.
The characters are distinctive. There is the uneducated mother, shameless and narcissist to the point of forgetting her handicap. She moves around in a wheel chair but doesn’t hesitate attacking even though she never succeeds. Her daughter, in her young thirties, seems at her hormonal peek. Killing procures an intense pleasure and she fully assumes her sexuality. Her brother knows this and, being the farm boy that he is, his main hobby is incest. He is probably the most present character. He feeds himself with medication and resembles anything other than a murderer. The others are all as caricatured but this is the villains’ show. The hero still empties a whole vodka bottle before our astonished eyes then collapses after brutalizing his ex-wife and the three murderers. If the budget had permitted, he would have probably shot a few bullets at the very controversial Jane Fonda, who's name appears on his t-shirt along with the words “bitch” and “traitor” all throughout the film..
The true reason that would push someone to watch Skinned Alive would be the desire to relax their brain and amuse themselves. The violence is more than abundant but the special effects never succeed. Few scenes are shot in half-light so we can kiss suspense goodbye. The finale has much to offer and the rest of the film should have followed its rhythm. This most probably would have given birth to something similar to Bad Taste : total ridicule that tries to be nothing more than what it actually is.