“Wendy Alden, a young secretary in Portland lacking in self-confidence, becomes victim of a savage killer who has claimed the lives of a number of other women. Somehow, Wendy finds the resources of courage to fight back and escape”
Steeped in a love of true crime, Shiver, aka Skin Collector, presents the familiar structure of a killer on the loose who’s stalking an escaped victim. However, the production stands out thanks to a few clever choices of filmmaker Julian Richards, his vision of a deranged killer actualised in a gleefully morbid fashion.
Notably, the casting of one of the most beloved actors to ever don the title of killer is John Jarrat, best known as Mick Taylor in the Wolf Creek series of film and TV series. Not to give the impression that the amount of violence is on par with the previous mentioned series, Jarrat is, nevertheless, a profound talent when it comes to portraying an obsessed serial killer. Able to transform mild-mannered Franklin Dood into a character with a superiority complex and penance for slaughtering women ruthlessly, it is an uncomfortable yet joyous experience watching Jarrat develop the despicable persona. Opposite to Jarrat’s role, Danielle Harris is the perfect protagonist as headstrong Wendy, an amiable lead character who is easy to root for – audiences will want to see her triumph over the perverse killer stalking her.
In terms of narrative, fans of true crime will eat this one up. In particular, the lead up and introduction of Franklin Dood feels pulled out of a real case of a mass murder – a cleverly realistic setup to evoke some palpable grit. Harboring a penchant for trophies, and mocking the authorities by leaving hints along with boasting of his ‘accomplishments’, the killer even falls into having a preferred ‘type’ of victim and certain modus operandi (garrotte and playing with bodies after murder) – they’re a defined antagonist who’s interesting to observe at every moment. Essentially, the ability to enjoy the production from playing the criminal psychologist angle will appease those that love to dig into true crime narratives.
The film does, however, escalate into over-the-top antics at the end with Franklin Dood headed out on a killing spree. Arguably, this kills the aspect of immersive realism from paralleling real cases, but it is the perfect way to conclude the film by providing closure for Jenny’s character arc. Not in spoiler territory, this final showdown is inevitable in the narrative structure, but is still thrilling seeing how it plays out.
Unfortunately, The Skin Collector lacks the graphic violence many will want in a film of this ilk, pushing it more into the realm of thriller than horror. Yes, there are a few gory scenes of bloody strangulation by garrote and the odd gunshot to the face, but the violence is mostly tame. Instead, shock rests largely with Dood’s disturbing persona and his creepy collection of dismembered ‘trophies’. Thankfully, the cast carries the film adequately, so the lack of sensational gore is negligible; but, if the expectation is to find Jarratt in another role where he is a harbinger of extreme violence, audiences are bound to be disappointed at the reserved approach.
The Skin Collector was a wholly enjoyable experience that spoke to my own love of true crime while somewhat disappointing me as a horror fan – it can be a hard balance to satisfy two disparate audiences of conflicting interests. Regardless, there is a lot here to enjoy and deconstruct, it is actually the ideal film to check out on your own and just get lost in the character building. Overall, Julian Richards has constructed a dark dive into the mind of a serial killer backed by stellar performances – give this one a shot!
The Skin Collector is available on DVD, VOD and TV via Jinga Films in The UK.
Greetings, My name is Adam and I am from Canada.
My love for all things bizarre came at a young age, as boredom in a small town lead me down a rabbit hole of obscure film, music, tv and literature. I have carried these fascinations with and turned it into a passion for writing, sharing and discussing the various arts.
My area of expertise, if there was one, would be geared towards Asian horror with a particular interest in film and manga. However, if it is odd, disturbing or trashy I probably heard of it or can at least pretend I have in conversation.
Thank you for taking the time to read my work, I always look to grow both as a writer and fan. I truly appreciate anyone willing to come along for the journey and share their passions in turn.