Monday, 26 January 2015


Despite the longevity of the werewolf myth, there really have been very few werewolf movies of any real quality. There seem to be literally dozens of great vampire flicks, but a mere handful of decent lycanthrope films.
Recently I heard about a new take on this age-old tale, Invasive Image’s Sheep Skin. The film has generated a lot of positive buzz so I knew I had to check it out.
Does it prove that there is life in the old dog yet? Or is this movie a howler? (I’m so, so sorry everybody, I’ll try not to do that anymore)
Read on…


Dir: Kurtis Spieler
Starring: Laurence Mullaney, Michael Schantz, Ria Burns-Wilder, Zach Gillette, Bryan Manley Davis, Jamie Lyn Bagley, Mark Resnik

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: I’ll try not to spoil too much here, but read on at your own risk.

One evening when leaving his office, slimy philandering businessman Todd (Mullaney) is abducted by a gang.
He finds himself tied to a chair in a warehouse at the mercy of his captives, Nathan (Schantz) and his friends and fellow musicians in a punk band. They include his girlfriend Dylan (Burns-Wilder), the volatile Boston Clive (Gillette) and reluctant accomplice Marcus (Davis). 
As the film progresses we discover that Nathan’s sister Caitlyn was previously involved in an affair with the married Todd. However, prior to the kidnapping, Caitlyn was brutally murdered in an incident that police have since put down to an animal attack.
Furthermore, as Todd has been travelling around for business, there have been similar attacks in his vicinity… and each has coincided with the full moon. This leads the gang to believe that Todd may actually be a werewolf and they have kidnapped him during the latest full moon to prove this. They are armed and prepared to kill Todd should he transform, interrogating him to find out exactly what his motivations are, while Todd desperately tries to convince the group of his innocence.
However, unknown to both the band and Todd, his suspicious wife Nicole (Bagley) has decided to check up on him and plans to track him down. What does this mean for everybody involved in the tense stand-off at the warehouse? Is Todd really set to transform in to a ravenous creature of the night when the moon rises? Or is Nathan barking up the wrong tree? (sorry, I couldn’t help it!)

THE BEST BITS (mild spoiler warning): Sheep Skin is a great thriller, dressed up as a horror movie. It’s cool as hell and takes an interesting and intriguing premise (one with a compelling mystery built in from the onset). This central mystery is the film’s biggest, strongest selling point. 
I’ve said many times that high-quality story telling trumps any number of flashy special effects and overcomes any budgetary restrictions. Sheep Skin is prove of this.
The story (written by director Spieler) moves along at a brisk pace and is driven by some superb dialogue. The opening scenes of this film could have felt like the worst kind of exposition dump if the writing had not been up to scratch, but instead the characters are nicely introduced and the natural sounding dialogue gives us all the information we need quickly, succinctly and without ever feeling forced or awkward.
Of course, the dialogue can be poetry but still sound dreadful if the cast aren’t up to the task of delivering it — but this group are uniformly excellent.
Schantz is brilliant, a restrained but passionate performance in which he shows real chops as a leading man. He plays a complicated character, wounded and forced to face a situation that is so far out there his only course of action is to embrace it wholeheartedly or be crippled by doubt and grief. Schantz completely understands the internal dilemma of Nathan and knocks it out of the park.
I was unfamiliar with his work before this film, I shall certainly look out for him from now on.
On the other side of the coin we have Mullaney’s Todd. Mullaney also nails the role, knowing exactly how and when to show his hand with the different sides of the character’s personality. He is slimy, a little sleazy, but also strangely sympathetic. The desperation of his situation means you can’t help but feel for him — he stands accused of the most outlandish of claims by armed, possibly delusional individuals with a serious axe to grind. Mullaney knows how to pull the audience onside, even if some of the revelations about his character are pretty unsavoury.
Rounding off the core group are the tough, spiky Burns Wilder; the gloriously demented Gillette; reticent, sensitive Davis and Bagley’s suspicious woman caught in the crossfire. Each knows what their role requires and each delivers, giving their character a realism and believability that is refreshing to see in the genre. These guys and girls know their stuff!
So we have strong writing, a compelling plot and a cracking cast, what else could you ask for?
How about some assured direction from Spieler? Spieler uses all of the tricks at his disposal brilliantly, framing each shot for the greatest possible impact and ensuring that the movie keeps its cool atmosphere and simmering tension throughout.
The climax of the film becomes dizzying as the plot unravels, the pace seeming to pick up and the camerawork become increasingly frenetic, rapidly cutting back and forth between the key set pieces. Wonderful work.

THE WORST BITS (mild spoiler warning): There is very little to find fault with in Sheep Skin.
I suppose some may be a little disappointed with the amount of horror on display, there are few frights and with the exception of some mild scenes of violence, very little in the way of gore and splatter. This is a more cerebral film, so fans of the visceral may not dig it as much as I did.
Also, as discussed earlier, the budget for this flick is clearly quite low. I felt Spieler and his crew made excellent use of everything they had, but a couple of effects scenes were a little patchy. There's a clever use of lighting and editing to mask these problems though, so they don’t really affect your enjoyment of the viewing experience.
Finally, and this is more my personal opinion than a quantifiable issue, the ending. This is difficult to discuss without giving away spoilers, but I’ll do my best to remain vague. From the onset, the film has only a handful of possible resolutions. Halfway through the film we are given some chances to break away from these possible finales, but Sheep Skin doesn’t diverge from its course, instead reaching what I felt was the most obvious conclusion. This isn’t a huge problem because the route to this destination is so well-executed (as are the final scenes themselves) that I’m sure you’ll all enjoy it. I suppose the problem was that after the wit and intelligence of the earlier scenes I found myself expecting a clever twist in the tale that never materialised. Perhaps this is more an indictment on my personal preferences  than the film though? I do imagine so.

VERDICT: I had a great time with Sheep Skin. It’s a prime example of what a fine filmmaker can achieve with a strong story, great cast and a whole tonne of attitude. It’s clever, cool and offers a compelling new take on werewolf movies. It’s The Howling meets Reservoir Dogs and well worth your time and money. Track it down and sink your teeth into it, you’d be barking mad not to! (ok, that one really is the last one!)
For now, why not head over to Invasive Image’s Facebook page to show some love for the flick?

If you haven’t already, do please check out and like the Hickey’s House of Horrors Facebook page, which you can find here. It gives you a nice quick link to any new posts on this blog, plus regular news updates from around the web. I check the Internet so you don’t have to! Alternatively, follow me on twitter: The House@HickeysHorrors

Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.

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