The nice thing about watching no-name, independent films is that you find the occasional gem that works a lot better than it really should. “Skinned Alive” is a lot more than it appears to be and while its execution isn’t flawless, it really is a diamond in the rough.
Jeffrey (Jack Dillon) is sad, alone and basically pathetic. His only companionship comes from his dog and the occasional call girl. Until, that is, he meets Pandora on one of his illicit trysts. In Pandora, he finds someone he can talk to and even relate to. Pandora, for her part, finds someone who accepts her as more than just a cheap thrill. That acceptance is pushed to the limits (and probably beyond, but hey it’s a movie and lonely people will put up with a lot), though, when she let Jeffrey in on her secret: Pandora likes to kill and eat her johns. A fact that, in addition to the obvious issues, puts them both in danger as her “tastes” have put her squarely in the sights of another psychopath out for revenge.
It’s not easy to make a movie about a cannibal hooker that is anything other than cheap schlock, but that is what they’ve done here. The movie actually has heart. Is logic stretched to extremes? Yes. But somehow, it works. Is Jeffrey accepting too much to make it believable? Is he in over his head? Is Pandora even real, or has he manufactured her so he wouldn’t be alone? All of these issues are explored and at least one other glaring is left unsaid – which I won’t spoil here, but I really felt detracted from the film.
That said, the acting is bad for the most part – fortunately, if you can get past the first victim, who seems little more than annoyed at being eaten alive, it gets a little better. The casting isn’t great. Pandora isn’t nearly as hot as other more mundane call girls in the film and Jeffrey is a decent-looking guy, with a job (granted a banal one) who apparently has money, and is able to at least approach women so it’s hard to buy him being so alone. There is one fatal flaw toward the end of the film which cost it a good 1/2 star for being completely unnecessary, but overall this is a darn fine film considering what one would go in expecting.