DVD Review: Skull Heads
Skull Heads (2009)
Studio: Wizard Ent.
Release Date: October 6, 2009
Directed By: Charles Band
Cast: Robin Sydney, Rane Jameson, Steve Kramer, Kim Argetsinger & Samantha Light.
Review By: Annie Riordan
With apologies to Shirley Jackson, the Arkoff’s have always lived in the castle. The castle in question stands crumbling in an isolated region of Italy and has housed the reclusive and eccentric Arkoff’s for time immemorial. But in these modern times of cell phones and iPods, teenage daughter Naomi Arkoff has discovered that a whole new world lies beyond the walls of the castle, a world she wants to explore. But mother Lisbeth and father Carver are opposed to Naomi ever leaving the homestead. Arkoff’s need to stick together, no matter what…even if it means a time out on the torture rack for simpleminded Naomi.
When a film crew arrives at the castle doors, claiming that the stone fortress would be a perfect set for the WW2 film they are shooting, Naomi is ecstatic and instantly smitten with the handsome Jensen, the youngest member of the three person team. Her parents, however, are less enthusiastic, with Carver downright hostile and rude to the “outsiders”. Despite his protests, Naomi and Lisbeth decide to accept the crew’s offer and invite them for a lavish dinner, followed by a tour of the castle. It is at this point that the Arkoff’s relate the legend of the Skull Heads to their guests: fierce little demons who protect the family and grounds and have the power to bring the dead back to life…a skill that proves amazingly useful when the film crew turns out to be skilled art thieves who plan to sack the Arkoff castle and kill anyone who gets in their way. Bad idea: the Skull Heads are always watching, and the Arkoff’s are a lot weirder and a lot more dangerous than anyone could have guessed.
In these days of CGI, it’s always a treat (for me, at least) to see some crappy claymation, some silly stop-motion animation, and some shitty puppet shows. I love that crap, and Charles Band – who brought us Puppet Master and Subspecies – knows how to pull it off without totally crossing the border into Cheez World. Skull Heads moves a bit slowly, taking its time fleshing out the inbred Arkoff’s, exploring their perversions, their mental limitations, and their oddly touching devotion to family no matter what. Their devotion to their ancient, rotting, bedridden patriarch is strangely touching, even when his ghastly countenance is finally revealed. The whole family is weirdly likable, in the same way the Sawyers of the (original) Texas Chainsaw Massacre are likable: they’re so fucked up you can’t help but sympathize with them a bit.
Naomi in particular is a fun character, a seventeen year old beauty with a knock out body and the mental capacity of a nine year old. Mom Lisbeth, with her extended vocabulary and prim manners, is the epitome of eccentric. You’ll wonder what the hell such a classy lady is doing with a slob like Carver, until their sick and twisted relationship is fully explained.
Despite a rather rushed ending, illogical last minute character arcs, and some silly scene chewing, Skull Heads is a lot of nonsensical fun – kind of like a weird mishmash of Castle Freak, The People Under The Stairs, and the aforementioned Chainsaw Massacre. Fans of cheesy crap like Puppet Master and Doctor Mordrid should enjoy Band’s latest offering.
Brutal As Hell Rating: 3 out of 5