Skinning the Cat (2011)

By: Oberst Von Berauscht (Five Beers) –

An elderly real-estate investor named Bruce is abducted from his home by an unknown assailant wearing a mask.  After throwing him in the back of his SUV, the abductor drives to an abandoned warehouse where he proceeds to mock and psychologically torment his quarry. Is he looking for money, is he doing it for thrills, or does he have some other motive that remains unsaid?

Let’s hope not…

A Toast

This independent film from first-time filmmaker Jeff Santa Barbara was shot over 11 days on a micro budget, and it is based on a play of the same name.  It should be applauded for making an abduction thriller that stays far away from the ultra violent torture-porn and/or bizarre revenge fantasies that have been so popular with horror audiences recently.  Instead it relies heavily on dialogue to build tension between the characters, and for the most part this works in the film’s favor.  First of all, it allows the audience to get to know Bruce and his captor, and over time grow to empathize with both in one way or another.  Skinning the Cat is at its best when focusing on these smaller moments, and there are enough of them to sustain the viewer’s interest.

Beer Two

Unfortunately, these moments of genuine drama are often punctuated by actor Matthew Wilson’s “eccentric” overacting as Ned, the kidnapper.  Wilson varies his performance schizophrenically, as if the director told him to improvise random craziness to fill screen-time.  These moments are often humorous, but not for the reason they are supposed to be, I suspect.

You are not Willem Dafoe; this is not Platoon.

Beer Three 

And then there is the question about Ned’s motives. *Spoiler alert* Bruce is most likely Ned’s paternal father, and the whole kidnapping thing was a ploy to get Bruce to acknowledge him.  I find it odd that Ned has never attempted to contact Bruce before this, at least to test the waters before resorting to pouring boiling hot coffee on his father’s naked legs, and later dancing to folk music which can only be described as some kind of bizarre mating ritual.

Beer Four

Another issue is the character of Bruce who, until three quarters into the film, has little more to do than act confused and ask various versions of “what are you doing?”  It becomes repetitive fast and could easily have been trimmed down in post-production.

Beer Five

Ned makes Bruce wear a diaper… I don’t get it either


Drink a few, you’ll survive.


Bonus Drinking Game

Take a Drink: when they talk about coffee

Take a Drink: for Yo-Yo references

Take a Drink: when Bruce asks what is happening to him, or what is going to happen.

Take a Drink: if you called the big “twist”

Drink a Shot: if you didn’t…

About Oberst von Berauscht

Oberst Von Berauscht once retained the services of a Gypsy to imbue in him the ability to accurately describe the artistic qualities of a film up to seven decimal points. To maintain this unique skill, he must feast on the blood of a virgin every Harvest Moon, or failing that (and he usually does), he can also make a dog do that thing they do where they twist their heads slightly (you know, when they're confused about something) at least a few times a week. I've gotten way off track here... The point is, Oberst is one of the website's founders, so... yeah

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