Thursday, October 21, 2010

Skull: A Night of Terror

(Robert Bergman, 1987)
Superficially slick, writer-director Bergman gets in way over his head when he starts fussing up this simple revenge plot with his notions of human behaviour. The gang of murderous criminals is bad enough - Didn't they know Skull was a sadistic pedophile before they sprung him from jail? Why are they getting cold feet now? - and the attempts to complicate Robbie Rox's boneheaded characterization with phobias and frailties only serve to make him as incomprehensible as his cohorts. But those guys have nothing on Robert Bideman's cop, one of the most agonizingly stupid protagonists in the entire exploitation canon. An emotionally intelligent filmmaker might conceivably have kept us identifying with the schmuck as he accidentally shoots hostages, fucks around on his wife, lets mass murderers escape for no reason, and drives into a swamp instead of calling for backup, but as things stand he's just contemptible. As a result, when he finally goes into avenging-warrior mode, we wouldn't give a shit even if the routine didn't inexplicably reverse the trauma-based impotence which defines the guy's entire characterization to that point. By the end, you desperately want the gasoline-soaked Bideman to obey the laws of physics and go up in flames along with the exploding house he's two feet away from - or at least for his wife to kick him in the balls instead of accompanying him on his walk into the goddamned sunset.

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