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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

(aka "Skare: The Prime Cut" )

 

directed by Michael J. Murphy
UK 2007

 

Escaped mental patient Dan (Warren May) stumbles onto the property of Martha (Judith Holding) who owns the nearby Skare Valley Country Club and lives in a cottage attached to a medieval mill. Dan is suspicious when Martha upon learning that he is an escaped mental patient decides to hide him, clothe him (in a speedo after spying on him in the shower), and feed him but is not in any position to refuse her hospitality (when he tells her he was institutionalized for killing someone, her response is "Just the one?"). The club's sexy manager Charlotte (Trudy Tyrell) is yet another incentive to stick around. Right away, things at Skare Valley seem a little off and it's more than just the legend of the mill involving a woman burned alive for witchcraft and her grown son buried alive (images which have already found a place in Dan's delirious flashbacks/nightmares). When Dan finds a human head in the mill's freezer, Martha confesses that she killed the real Martha and took over her identity. She fed the body to the country club goers and her special ingredient became so popular that she continued procuring more of it (the dim police inspector who show up at the club daily for lunch casually remarks about the large number of disappearances in the area compared to other counties). With Charlotte's help, Martha tempts Dan into staying and trains him to eventually take her place. With her constant offerings of natural health shakes, hearty meals, and intense coaching of his workout, is Martha simply starved for affection or for something more tasty.

Although even the most casual horror viewer will have no trouble guessing the twist involving Martha's popular meals and the story contains many familiar elements, SKARE is unpredictable and diverting enough to hold the viewer's attention. While a sudden supernatural turn is jarring, a poignant exchange after the climax puts a different spin on the familiar last scene). The horror genre was virtually dead in England in the late seventies and early eighties (post Pete Walker and Norman Warren) apart from a few scattered entries (XTRO) and American co-productions (Polygram's AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON and Cannon's HOUSE OF LONG SHADOWS) and Michael J. Murphy was one of the few independent filmmakers who tried to keep it going with no-budget 16mm entries including INVITATION TO HELL and THE LAST NIGHT (which were both barely feature-length and ended up paired together on videotape) among others. Although the 2001 version of SKARE is lost to us (brief segments of the surviving SKARE 2001 footage appears on Martha's television as a generic slasher film; to which she humorously reacts with comments like "trash" and "rubbish"), SKARE 2007 shows a leap in Murphy's grasp of filmmaking (going by comparison with memories of a poor quality release of INVITATION TO HELL - recently given the special edition treatment by Sarcophilous - and having seen none of his other films); indeed, SKARE if shot on film in the seventies might pass for a Norman Warren or Pete Walker film or at least a film in that vein. The DV photography is mostly slick but only betrays its origins during some digitally treated footage (including slow motion) and some digital matte composites; although some seemingly unsuccessful filtration to diffuse highlights is revealed in the commentary to be actual dust on the lens from the location. Holding is confident in her showy role while May's performance is mostly good (the lengthy dialogue scenes between the two leads have a naturalistic feel despite the subject matter) though some of his over-the-top show the limits of his range. Their is plentiful nudity (mostly male) and gore (after a restrained setup). The effects are sometimes crude but the vein of black humor mitigates some of their artificiality (which cannot always be said for the visual effects).

Eric Cotenas

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Theatrical Release:

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DVD Review: Sarcophilous Films - Region 0 - NTSC

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

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Distribution

Sarcophilous Films

Region 0 - NTSC

Runtime 1:22:36
Video

1.78:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 5.24 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo)
Subtitles none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Sarcophilous Films

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.78:1

Edition Details:
• Audio Commentary by writer/director Michael J. Murphy and actress Judith Holding
• The Making of SKARE (16:9; 14:01)
• Trailer (16:9; 1:27)
• SKARE 2001 Photo Gallery
• SKARE 2007 Photo Gallery
• DVD-ROM: SKARE source story ONE MAN'S POISON, SKARE 2001 screenplay, and SKARE 2007 screenplay

DVD Release Date: September 19, 2009
Amaray

Chapters 17

 

Comments

Shot on PAL DV (there is no audio speed-up as such), the NTSC DVD of SKARE seems to have been sourced from an NTSC export of the original video file rather than a PAL-NTSC conversion of a master tape (the extra features, on the other hand the extras feature heavy artifacting in sideways movements even on interlaced screens). The transfer is as noisy as the original videography was (with blown-out highlights) but viewing the film on an interlaced TV results in a slicker image. Some artifacting may be the result of the video filters (besides the digital effects and compositing, Murphy admits on the commentary to darkening some scenes to increase contrast). Stereo audio is strong with dialogue and the Bernard Hermannesque strings coming through clearly (thankfully, the filmmakers seem to have taken care with the dialogue recording). The scene selection screen is designed like a restaurant menu under the option "Choice Cuts" and the bonus features are labeled as "Off cuts" of meat (with "Prime Cut" as the feature play option).

"Offal" plays the film with audio commentary by director Murphy who mentions right off that he replaced the original opening scene with digitally treated footage from an earlier film and apologizes to the actors featured in the now deleted prologue (which, unfortunately, does not show up as one of the disc's extras). "Tender" is a well-edited fourteen minute comprehensive making-of documentary featuring input from director Murphy and actress Judith Holding as well as a large number of bloopers and gaffes. "Gamey" is a twenty second text screen about the contents of the disc's DVD-ROM PDF features. The photo galleries for both the lost 2001 version of SKARE and the 2007 feature on the disc are paired together under "Tasty" and the film's trailer is under the "Fatty" option.

 - Eric Cotenas

 



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DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

 

Distribution

Sarcophilous Films

Region 0 - NTSC

 

 




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