Pete (Brandon Salkil) is a genetic researcher who does most of his work in the confines of his basement. Such are the confines of filming within a $2,000.00 budget, the viewer suspends disbelief and accepts that this basement is the type of laboratory where a cure for cancer may just be discovered.

Indeed, this is precisely what Pete and his assistant Alice (Erin R Ryan) are working on. Well, that's when the hot Olivia (Allison Egan) isn't paying a visit to sexually gratify the former.

Pete discovers these curious, fish-like parasites who - he later explains to Alice - emit secretions which he reckon may contain said cure. But he'll need to prove this soon if he wants benefactor Neil (Dave Parker) to keeping funding their research.

Suffering from skin cancer, Pete decides to ignore Alice's concerned pleas to the contrary and test the parasitic fluid on himself. He's delighted when, a short while after injecting himself with the stuff, the bruise-like marking on his shoulder completely disappears. He rings Alice to share his success. But then...

Ah, these things have a habit of turning bad rather quickly, don't they? Sure enough, the moment an elated Pete gets in the shower for a wash, his skin starts to peel away. He's quickly left resembling the skinless Frank from HELLRAISER.

This is just the start of Pete's problems. Neil's due to visit to check out his latest findings, and Olivia's bound to pop back in to get naked again soon. And the chances of Pete fooling either of them by mumbling through a mask, sunglasses and a hooded top are remote.

Then of course, there's Alice. Lovely Alice. The true object of Pete's affections. But will she be able to accept him for what he has become? And if not, how will he handle rejection?

Dustin Wayde Mills' SKINLESS - or THE BALLAD OF SKINLESS PETE as the extras reveal its shooting title to have been (which was wisely discarded in my opinion) - starts slowly but builds to a satisfyingly bombastic final half filled with gooey set-pieces. Along the way we get gore, pathos, nudity ... everything that makes low budget films good, in fact.

The FX work is largely of the practical variety and exhibits a rudimentarily squishy quality not too dissimilar to that witnessed in Leif Jonker's DARKNESS. No bad thing in my book. In terms of both content and style, it's plain to see shades of THE FLY, HOLLOW MAN, THE INVISIBLE MAN and even SHIVERS as the madness escalates.

While the balance between humour and horror doesn't always fit well - the film starts quite silly before descending into darker territory after 20 minutes or so - there's precious little not to like once things get going.

Mills' regular leading man Salkil (who also co-wrote the screenplay with the director) is capable of eliciting sympathy as well as the odd titter, before getting really scary when his psychosis starts to take over. Ryan holds her own well in an emotional turn opposite Salkil. As hot as she undoubtedly is (and she's naked quite a bit during the film's latter scenes), her character is much more than just a pair of boobies ... and the chemistry between her and Salkil is palpable throughout.

This last point is integral to the film as, much like THE FLY, SKINLESS is the tale of a doomed romance at heart.

SKINLESS comes to region-free DVD courtesy of MVD Visual and Whacked Movies. It's uncut and looks very good in its original 16x9 widescreen ratio.

Colours are adequate, detail is surprisingly strong and images remain free from digital noise throughout. All in all, the film looks much better than you'd expect something of its budget to.

The English 2.0 audio track is very good in general too. Salkil's dialogue gets a little muffled at times once he's donned the aforementioned mask, but that's a minor complaint.

The disc's animated main menu gives way to a scene selection menu allowing access to the film via 12 chapters.

Bonus features consist of an enjoyably thorough and friendly commentary track from Mills, along with 25 minutes worth of online video diary footage shot during the film's shoot. Between them, both address locations, actors, FX work, how Mills gets women to appear nude in his movies, what music he listens to while writing his scripts (A Perfect Circle, Deftones) and much, much more. Mills comes across as extremely likeable, and welcomes all to befriend him on Facebook. So, why not?

SKINLESS recalls other horror films, certainly - most glaringly, THE FLY (the Cronenberg one). It's also a very low-budget affair. But the pace is rock solid, the gore FX are enjoyable and the nudity is most welcome. The added factors of credible acting and serious subject matters (rejection; unrequited love) are a bonus for the thinking man.

Worth checking out.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Whacked Movies
Region All NTSC
Not Rated
Extras :
see main review