Skinford: Death Sentence (2023) Review
Skinford was shot and released in its native Australia and apparently nowhere else, in 2017. A sequel, Skinford: Chapter Two followed in 2018. So, when I saw the title Skinford: Death Sentence pop up on my radar I naturally enough thought it was a third film in the franchise.
Then I noticed the plot and crew credits were the same as the original film with just a couple of differences in the cast. A quick check of the copyright date confirmed this is not a new film. As near as I can guess Black Mandala saw its potential as a cult film and picked it up. And they must have some faith in it as IMDB has an entry for Skinford 2: The Curse which bears a strong similarity to Skinford: Chapter Two.
As Skinford: Death Sentence begins petty criminal Jim “Skinny” Skinford (Joshua Brennan, Bloody Hell, Skinford) finds himself in a hole. He knows well enough to stop digging, but he can’t as he’s being made to dig his own grave. But as he takes the bullet a hand reaches up from the dirt and touches him making him immortal.
It seems he’s not the first person to be taken out there for disposal, Zophia (Charlotte Best, Home and Away, An American in Texas) who has been buried alive. As if that isn’t strange enough, she tells him he shouldn’t have dug her up. It won’t be long before he starts to agree with her.
Director Nik Kacevski (Engineered, Mongrel) and co-writer Tess Meyer (The Wild Adventures of Blinky Bill, Lil Wild) have come up with a plot that certainly isn’t like anything else you may have seen. As if the opening wasn’t odd enough it soon draws in mob boss Falkov (Goran D. Kleut, Wyrmwood: Apocalypse, Alien: Covenant), a truck full of women, including Jim’s ex Jaya (Kelly Paterniti, Inhuman Resources, Home and Away), abducted for sex trafficking who also have bombs implanted in them, mad scientists and, believe it or not, more.
Despite what appears to have been a low budget the film never really slows down, throwing fights, beatings, a car chase, and exploding bodies at the camera with a commendable frequency. It’s a good thing too, because when it’s doing that it approaches the level of other gonzo Australian films like Sons of Steel and Body Melt. But when it does try to get serious, such as Zophia talking about her immortality being a curse, it feels shallow and pretentious.
Skinford: Death Sentence also looks a lot better than its budget might lead you to expect. Cinematographers Kieran Fowler (Carnifex, Terminus) and Carl Robertson (Road Kill, Infini) get a lot of mileage out of the streets of Sydney, as well as a sinister nursing home and the interior of a ship. The film’s effects are a mix of practical and CGI and are mostly acceptable to very good.
Some will find the script’s refusal to answer questions about the source of Zophia’s immortality, the story behind the evil little girls, or just how Jimmy’s father Guy (Ric Herbert, No Escape, King Kong) figures into it, frustrating. It’s not so much a lack of attention to detail as it is a conscious choice. The viewer spends the film as confused as Jimmy and the search for more answers is the bridge to the second film. That said I wouldn’t have minded them giving up a little more information at a few points.
Overall though this is a fun crime/horror hybrid that isn’t meant to be taken too seriously. Sit back, have a Fosters or three, and enjoy it if you get the chance. I’m looking forward to Chapter Two.
Skinford: Death Sentence has been released in several countries including Germany with further releases planned. You can keep an eye on Black Mandala’s website and Facebook page for details. And while you wait for sentence to be passed on your country, FilmTagger can suggest some similar viewing