Thursday, March 8, 2012

Strung Out on Slashers: SKARE (2007)

We love covering the obscure here at Video Junkie, but just how obscure is obscure?  I mean, names like Ted V. Mikels, Donald Jackson and Nick Millard are surely going to get you a resounding “who?” (in Carter Wong voice) from the average folks.  Despite that, these men have detailed filmographies at the IMDb and garner plenty of discussion in print and online by knowledgeable folks over the years.  So who, in our estimation, is really obscure?  My vote goes for British film director Michael J. Murphy, a guy who has been working steadily (commercially) for over three decades and made over 20 films, yet only three of them (INVITATION TO HELL, THE LAST NIGHT, DEATH RUN) are actually listed on the IMDb.  If we were Horror Hipsters, we would coo a sarcastic, “I’m surrrrrre you’ve never heard of him.”

SKARE opens with Dan (Warren May), an escaped mental patient, bolting through the English countryside.  He soon finds himself at the Skare Valley Country Club and is taken in by its owner, Martha (Judith Holding).  She clothes and feeds the young lad (including her special green “vitamin” concoction) in exchange for his help in various labor chores around the estate. Martha has been given the affectionate nickname “Mad” Martha by the locals, but they don’t realize how true that moniker really is.  You see, she likes to take in strays because they help provide the meat for her lodge and she has been priming Dan to be the best meal he can be.  Of course, the unexpected happens and Martha actually falls for this hunk of meat.  At the same time, Dan falls for restaurant manager Charlotte (Trudi Tyrrell), who also just happens to be Martha’s former lover.  Poor Dan!  Not only has he found himself residing at MOTEL HELL (1980), but he’s hanging out with the cast of BASIC INSTINCT (1991) too.

A latter day production for Murphy, SKARE keeps up with the themes seen in his earlier short INVITATION TO HELL (1982). While the Satanism angle is dropped, we once again focus on a character being held against their will in the English countryside by someone with ulterior motives (human meat production replacing a satanic ritual here) while playing kinky sex games. Interestingly, Murphy weaves in some flashbacks about formers land owners (also played by the leads) having been burnt at the stake for witchcraft.  It gives the film a slight supernatural edge, as if this location is destined for love and murder. The sex is plentiful, although Murphy does tend to spend more time having his camera ogle the male lead.  The gore is equally plentiful and there is an ending involving a severed head that reminded me of Lamberto Bava’s MACABRE (1980).  As far as I know, this was Murphy’s first time shooting on digital video and he makes it look serviceable.  While not overly stylish, there are some well done nightmare sequences with some nice superimpositions in them.  I’m sure Murphy would have preferred film, which brings us to SKARE’s interesting cinematic history.

Based off a short story that Murphy wrote in the 1990s, SKARE was actually filmed completely twice.  The first time was in 2001, where the director shot it on 16mm with a budget of roughly £10,000.  According to Murphy on the DVD’s “making of” segment, trouble arose when the Royal Mail actually lost a majority of the footage sent to be developed in the mail.  That give’s new meaning to their tagline, “With us, it’s personal.”  So the original version is forever lost, no doubt probably resting at the bottom of a pile of hoarded mail by some insane Royal Mail worker.  Not to be deterred, Murphy returned to the material several years later and reshot it on digital video (a small surviving snipped of the original film is shown as something the lead is watching on TV late in the film; the Murphy production MOONCHILD also cameos in the opening).

SKARE (2001):

SKARE (2007):

Sarcophilous Films gave SKARE a loving special edition DVD presentation.  Like their earlier Murphy double feature INVITATION TO HELL/THE LAST NIGHT, it is a nice special edition that includes a “making of” segment and audio commentary by Murphy and his lead actress Holding.  The DVD also contains both scripts in PDF format and a extensive still gallery that includes several stills from the first shoot of the film.  Sacrophilous were planning on doing more Murphy productions (including BLOODSTREAM and ATLANTIS) and even some Renato Polselli films, but, sadly, nothing has been heard from the company since 2010.  Like the subject of their only two DVD releases, they are destined to become as obscure as the man they are paying tribute to.  Let’s hope that changes in the future.


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