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Skeletons in the Closet (2024) Review

Skeletons in the Closet is the latest film from director Asif Akbar. After sitting through several abysmal films he’s directed, most recently Clown Motel as well as an even larger pile of duds he was a producer on, I knew enough not to have high expectations. Even that wasn’t enough preparation for what I was about to endure.

Mark (Terrence Howard, Showdown at the Grand, Iron Man) and Valentina (Valery M. Ortiz, Cloudy with a Chance of Christmas, Dumbbells) are dealing with financial problems. Those problems are about to get a lot worse, as instead of the raise he was expecting, Mark gets a pink slip. As if that wasn’t enough bad news, their daughter Jenny’s (Appy Pratt, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, Rattlesnake) has brain cancer and the doctors are willing to let her die unless Mark and Valentina can come up with $50,000.

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We also know that something else is going on, because in the film’s first five minutes, Valentina sees doors opening by themselves and a ghost standing over Jenny. A ghost that looks like somebody with a sheet thrown over them. Could it be the ghost of Charlie Brown?

The script, written by Joshua A. Cohen (Black Warrant, Red Herring) and Terrence Howard, isn’t done piling things on these unfortunate souls just yet. Mark’s brother Andres (Cuba Gooding Jr., The Weapon, Boyz n the Hood) is just out of jail and knows someone who can get Mark the money. A guy named Miguel (Reno Reyes, Boss Level, Godzilla: King of the Monsters), “Not the kinda cat you want to be messing around with.” Of course, Mark borrows the money from him anyway.

He also hooks him up with a fortune-teller Madam Futura (Sally Kirkland, Aftermath, Invincible) who says she’s never seen a reading like his. She can’t change his future, but she knows someone who can, Luc (Udo Kier, Mark of the Devil, Chompy and the Girls) if they just write a few things on a piece of parchment.

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If all this sounds like an incredible mashup of elements from multiple horror films with some generic gangster tropes thrown in, you’re right. Skeletons in the Closet bounces around scenes of a ghostly intruder stalking Jenny in the hospital to Luc with a snake wrapped around him to some of Miguel’s goons turning up on Mark’s doorstep to Valentina having flashbacks to something in her childhood. But it never bothers to flesh any of it out.

Neither Akbar nor cinematographer Alex Salahi (Project: Puppies for Christmas, On Our Way) have a flair for the kind of visuals that would help to carry Skeletons in the Closet through its problems. Problems that include And laughable attempts at profound dialogue like “The world is like an iceberg. Most of what happens goes on below the surface.” Although to be fair, the effects, which range from adequate but bland to poor, wouldn’t be up to it even if they did.

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We finally get some explanations in the form of an extended flashback, anyone who’s still paying attention will probably have guessed. Louis Mandylor (The Flood, Rambo: Last Blood) turns up to deliver a load of exposition, just in case they don’t. And from there Skeletons in the Closet staggers to a final shot that you’ll have seen coming well in advance, though we can feel relived that the sequel it hints at is extremely unlikely to happen.

With a main thread that isn’t fully developed and multiple subplots that end up being filler and having no real bearing on the plot, Skeletons in the Closet is a train wreck almost from the start. Even by the standards of “we’re only here for the paycheck” films, it’s dismal, and I have to wonder why Shudder thought it was worth picking up.

Skeletons in the Closet is currently streaming on Shudder.

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