Skeletons (1997)


USA. 1997.


Director – David DeCoteau, Screenplay – Joshua Michael Stern, Producer – Brian Shuster, Photography – Tom Callaway, Music – John Masari, Production Design – Hunter Cressall. Production Company – HIT Entertainment Inc


Ron Silver (Peter Crane), Dee Wallace Stone (Heather Crane), Christopher Plummer (Reverend Raymond Carlyle), James Coburn (Frank Jove), Kyle Howard (Zack Crane), Kathleen Noone (Sadie), D. Paul Thomas (Sheriff Joe Carlton), Dennis Christopher (Jim Norton), Clive Rosengren (Jacob MacIntyre), Carroll Baker (Nancy Norton), David Graf (Sam), Paul Bartel (Mayor Harvey Dunbar), Pat Thomas (Toby Carlyle)


After Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Peter Crane has a heart attack, he, his wife and teenage son decide to move away from New York City to a quiet life in the peaceful New England town of Saugatuck. The locals welcome them. Crane is pressed by local resident Nancy Norton to investigate the case of her son Jim who is accused of having murdered his gay lover. As Crane investigates, it becomes apparent that Jim is innocent. At the same time, Crane, his wife and son are subjected to terrifying harassment from masked locals. As Crane persists with the investigation, it becomes apparent that Norton’s lover was murdered by the locals because he was gay and that the whole town has been conspiring to eliminate people that do not conform to their wholesome way of life.

Skeletons comes from David DeCoteau. DeCoteau is best known as a director who works down the cheap end of the exploitation market. DeCoteau has made numerous films under a variety of pseudonyms, which include to name but a handful, Creepozoids (1987), Sorority Babes at the Slimeball Bowl-a-Rama (1987), Beach Babes from Beyond (1993), Test Tube Teens from the Year 2000 (1994), Beach Babes 2: Cave Girl Island (1996), Bikini Goddesses (1996), The Killer Eye (1998), Ancient Evil: Scream of the Mummy (2000) and Voodoo Academy (2000). (See bottom of the page for a full list of David DeCoteau’s films).

The great surprise about Skeletons is that it is an almost respectable film upon David DeCoteau’s part. DeCoteau apparently stepped in at short notice to fill the directorial reins vacated by Ken Russell – which either may say something about how David DeCoteau is becoming respectable (something his output elsewhere has failed to demonstrate) or else how far down that Ken Russell had fallen in the 1990s. Rather than the host of minimally talented Scream Queens he usually casts, DeCoteau has on hand respectable actors like Ron Silver, Christopher Plummer and James Coburn – and even manages to get reasonable and often subtly shaded performances out of the former two. Skeletons shows that with a fair script and a decent cast that David DeCoteau is capable of displaying a modest competence – at least about the level of the average tv movie director. (Although, for all that, Skeletons never ended up with any kind of a release outside of DeCoteau’s usual video and cable market anyway).

As a rule, one does not like to speculate about the private lives of directors/celebrities, although in the case of David DeCoteau one gets the strong impression that he is gay in private life. Although he regularly works in the T&A exploitation genre, many of DeCoteau’s films from the late 1990s onwards have strong and unmistakeable homo-erotic undercurrents. Skeletons is a heavy-handed parable about anti-gay prejudice. Here DeCoteau does a passable effort in making suspenseful development out of the discovery of the town’s secrets. Although his schlockier tendencies do emerge from time to time – like the image of Christopher Plummer hunting Ron Silver while roaring “You can’t hide from an AK47 that’s been blessed by The Lord.”

What kills Skeletons is a frankly unbelievable happy ending where Ron Silver is about to be executed and the townspeople abruptly have a change of heart at the last moment and turn the guns on their leaders. Moreover, it is an ending that has a banal version of prejudice, seeing it as something that is stirred up in a basically benevolent population by corrupt leaders. In truth, prejudice is something that is deeply intertwined with human fear – the fear of that which is different to what one is used to and the desire to seek security by bonding together with a social group and isolating that which lies outside.

David DeCoteau’s other films of genre interest are:– Dreamaniac (1986), Nightmare Sisters (1987), Creepozoids (1987), Sorority Babes at the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama (1987), Dr Alien/I Was a Teenage Sex Maniac (1988), Murder Weapon (1990), Puppetmaster III: Toulon’s Revenge (1991), Beach Babes from Beyond (1993), Test Tube Teens from the Year 2000 (1994), Blonde Heaven (1995), Prehysteria! 3 (1995), Beach Babes 2: Cave Girl Island (1996), Bikini Goddesses (1996), Lurid Tales: The Castle Queen (1996), Petticoat Planet (1996), Prey of the Jaguar (1996), The Journey: Absolution (1997), Shrieker (1997), Beach Babes from Beyond 2 (1998), Curse of the Puppet Master (1998), Frankenstein Reborn (1998), The Killer Eye (1998), Talisman (1998), Alien Arsenal (1999), Witchhouse (1999), Ancient Evil: Scream of the Mummy (2000), The Brotherhood (2000), Frankenstein and the Wolfman Reborn (2000), Prison of the Dead (2000), Voodoo Academy (2000), Final Stab/Final Scream/Scream 4 (2001), The Frightening (2001), The Brotherhood 2: Young Warlocks (2001), The Brotherhood 3: Young Demons (2002), The Wolves of Wall Street (2002), Leeches (2003), Speed Demon (2003), Ring of Darkness (2004), The Sisterhood (2004), Brotherhood IV: The Complex (2005), Killer Bash (2005), Witches of the Caribbean (2005), Beastly Boyz (2006), Grizzly Rage (2007), The Raven (2007), House of Usher (2008), Alien Presence (2009), The Brotherhood V: Alumni (2009), The Brotherhood VI: Initiation (2009), Nightfall (2009), The Pit & the Pendulum (2009), Son of a Witch (2009), Stem Cell (2009), 1313: Giant Killer Bees (2010), Puppet Master: Axis of Evil (2010), A Dream Within a Dream (2011), 1313: Haunted Frat (2011), 1313: Actor Slash Model (2011), 1313: Boy Crazies (2011), 1313: Wicked Stepbrother (2011), 1313: Bermuda Triangle (2012), 1313: Bigfoot Island (2012), 1313: Cougar Cult (2012), 1313: Frankenqueen (2012), 1313: Hercules Unbound (2012), 1313: Night of the Widow (2012), 1313: UFO Invasion (2012), A Halloween Puppy (2012), Immortal Kiss: Queen of the Night (2012), Santa’s Summer House (2012), Snow White: A Deadly Summer (2012), 2: Voodoo Academy (2012), Hansel & Gretel: Warriors of Witchcraft (2013), My Stepbrother is a Vampire (2013), A Talking Cat (2013), A Talking Pony (2013), 3 Scream Queens (2014), 3 Wicked Witches (2014), 666: Devilish Charm (2014), 666: Kreepy Kerry (2014), 90210 Shark Attack (2014), Bigfoot vs D.B. Cooper (2014), Knock ‘Em Dead (2014), Asian Ghost Story (2016), Bloody Blacksmith (2016), Evil Exhumed (2016), Sorority Slaughterhouse (2016), 666: Teen Warlock (2016), The Wrong Child (2016), The Wrong Roommate (2016), Swamp Freak (2017), The Wrong Crush (2017), The Wrong Man (2017), The Wrong Student (2017), The Wrong Cruise (2018) and The Wrong Friend (2018). DeCoteau has made films under a variety of pseudonyms, including Ellen Cabot, Richard Chasen, Julian Breen and Victoria Sloan.

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