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SKELETONS IN THE CLOSET
Reviewed May 12th, 2002 by David Nusair

 

Though itís got an intriguing premise Ė a father suspects his son may in fact be a murderer Ė Skeletons in the Closet just doesnít have enough plot to sustain a 90 minute movie.

Treat Williams stars as the father, while Jonathan Jackson plays the son. We find out early on that the wife/mother died several years prior, under suspicious circumstances. Jacksonís always suspected Williams set the fire that killed her, which has caused a chasm-sized rift between the two. But Williams finally begins to suspect that something might just be awry when a local boy is found murdered, and his son just happened to be the last person to see him. Add to that some increased drinking and some rowdy behavior at a party, and Williams has good reason to believe that his son just may be a sociopath. But itís not quite that simple. The movie gives us good reason to believe that Jackson might be completely innocent, and that Williamsí paranoid delusions are just a cover-up for his own malfeasance.

The history behind Skeletons in the Closet, detailed in the DVDs accompanying booklet, is long and winding Ė and ultimately proves that perhaps there was a reason it took ten years for this movie to get made. Itís certainly not the fault of the actors the movie doesnít work Ė indeed, Williams has never been better. No, the sparse plot may have been effective as a 20-minute short, but as a feature-length film, itís stretched far too thinly. It doesnít help that the movieís been shot on digital video, and winds up resembling a cheapie PBS special rather than a film. There are certain cases in which shooting digital actually enhances the mood of the movie Ė The Blair Witch Project being the most obvious example Ė but here it just doesnít work.

And as intriguing as the story idea is, itís also a shade too obvious. Though we donít find out until the last two minutes who the actual killer is, itís no big surprise. You donít exactly have to be Columbo to figure out if itís the dad or the son doing the murdering, which leads to a suspenseless atmosphere. Thereís no tension here, and when it comes to thrillers, thatís about the worst transgression that exists.

But the actingís good, at least. Williams, an underrated actor thatíll probably never get his due, strikes just the right note as a father who slowly comes to a horrific realization Ė though nobody seems to believe him. Jackson is also good, though due to the limitations of shooting on digital video, his performance often comes off as a little forced and over-the-top.

Skeletons in the Closet is a little too obvious and far too slow to be an effective thriller, though it may just be worth checking out for Treat Williamsí performance.

Audio: The movie contains a DD 5.1 soundtrack, and itís good if not spectacular. Dialogue is clear enough, though sometimes the sound becomes a little tinny which makes it hard to make out what everyoneís saying. And jeers to Artisan for not including English captions!

Video: On the other hand, this 1.77:1 transfer is amazing. Transferred directly from the digital source, itís just about flawless. Like the Toy Story or Bugís Life discs, itís as shiny and shimmering as youíd expect.

Extras: First off, a word of warning. The booklet included with the DVD says that a short film by the director is included. Itís not (unless, of course, itís a really well hidden easter egg). Anyway, the extra features that are included are good enough to make up for it. Primarily, the commentary track featuring the husband and wife team of Wayne and Donna Powers. Wayne speaks the most, though both get an opportunity to talk. And talk they do. There are virtually no gaps, and itís basically non-stop information dispensed. From the casting to the release problems, itís all here. This is certainly one of the better commentary tracks to come along in a while, and indeed, proves to be more entertaining than the film itself! Also included are a trailer, production notes, and some cast/crew bios (two deleted scenes are hidden on this page, though theyíre nothing special).

Conclusion: Skeletons in the Closet might be worth a rental if youíre a big Treat Williams fan, but otherwise, donít bother.

 

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