Let’s start this review off with a disclaimer. Technically, it’s probably a few disclaimers.
If you can not tolerate a film with an extremely low budget, you should probably stop reading now. If you can not find humor in a highly ludicrous concept, you should stop reading right now. You can also stop reading now If mindless over-indulgence just isn’t your thing and I apologize for having made you read this far. Not really. It still puts Horror And Sons one “view” closer to beating last year’s totals. Thanks. Much appreciated.
Skeleton Cop is a 2019 independently produced (i.e. minimal budget) short film from filmmaker Chad Nelson Knauer. Although the film was already essentially completed, a Kickstarter campaign was successfully funded in 2018 to help with the film’s effects. While these too are handled with limited financial expense, there is quite a bit of effects work on display, whether it be the puppeteering of Skeleton Cop or the buckets of blood splashed across the screen in the film’s meager 32 minute runtime.
The film tells the tale of Skeleton Cop. He’s a skeleton… and a cop. Why do you think the film is called “Skeleton Cop“? If you haven’t bailed out on this review by now, chances are you are the ideal viewer for the film. That, or you really don’t have much else to do with your time. In which case, you may still be the ideal viewer for this film. Just play along. I’ll explain later.
Even before the opening credits roll, Skeleton Cop is dispatched to a burglary in progress. He catches a young woman in the act, but (as one might expect) his appearance startles her, causing her to emit a high-pitched scream. Her response seemingly startles Skeleton Cop as well, and he emits an even higher-pitched scream before firing multiple rounds into the woman. Each shot results in a shower of blood, an early indication that the film is not here to be subtle.
The credits roll and we find Skeleton Cop being grilled by the chief for excessive force. As his last 37 arrests have ended in a shooting, maybe this lecture is a tad justified. To help keep him in line, Skeleton Cop is being partnered with Detective Nolan (Rico Bauthier), a by-the-book cop who’s not too keen on being partnered with an “incompetent and unreliable” skeleton, a stereotype played for laughs early in the film.
Nolan drinks his nights away at a dive called “Mandy’s Bar”, where he has developed a friendship with the bar’s owner, Mandy. It is called “Mandy’s Bar”, after all. When we first meet Mandy, she is chastising a pair of ninja for being cheapskates and trying to solicit free food. For whatever reason, the actress playing “Mandy” has been dubbed over with another person’s voice, one that very much sounds like a man trying to impersonate a woman, but coming off closer to Mickey Mouse. As you might expect, the effect is just goofy. (See what I did there?)
It’s also worth noting that “Mandy’s Bar” may just be someone’s den. I mean, I’m pretty sure that the liquor is being stored on a bookshelf. I mention this not as a detraction on the film, but to once again remind the reader of the film’s notably low budget. While these settings are initially evident, the film has enough going on to make you quickly overlook it. Then again, Mandy’s rampant cleavage may distract you from noticing such things.
As with any good “buddy cop film”, there is initial tension between the new partners. This leads to a scene in which the two detectives battle for control of the car radio, with Skeleton Cop blasting a vulgar rap song and Nolan repeatedly turning it off. The duo ultimately come to agreement upon an outlandish polka song about titties. For the record, most arguments between men can be solved this way. Again, the scene is simply too dumb not to laugh at. You might also get a chuckle out of the crew member trying to hide behind the driver’s seat in the scene.
Meanwhile, at the highly suspicious looking pagoda that serves as the headquarters for the ninja clan/crime organization known as the Order of the OctoSquirrel, the leader of the clan (Tim Hale) has gathered his forces in order to reveal his plans to take control of the city. If anything, this sequence highlights the film’s immature sense of humor more than any other. One of the film’s highlights, Hale is clearly enjoying every second of his role, relishing the amount of ham his role provides. PS I just put relish and ham in the same sentence. Chew on that!
Skeleton Cop and Nolan uncover clues to the Order’s scheme after gunning down a man that they spotted littering. In true 80’s fashion, this is followed by a montage of the two cops taking down various perps, including drug dealers, underground duck fighting circuits, and even a mouthy prostitute with a case of herpes that resembles a Jackson Pollock painting. There’s also a saptastic moment that provides some backstory for Nolan. While the scene might be used for emotional effect in any other film, the whole thing feels too melodramatic and drastically out-of-place to be taken remotely serious. And really, it’s not meant to be.
A highly unexpected turn sets the stage for the final blood-drenched showdown with the Order of the OctoSquirrel. It’s here that the film truly goes bonkers with its effects, featuring dozens of ninjas being dispatched in a multitude of arterial-splattering ways. Some of the effects appear to be computer generated, while others are accomplished via practical effects, including a few particularly messy chainsaw deaths. The film’s ending may be one of the most asinine spectacles I’ve ever witnessed… and I was still shaking my head while laughing long after it was over.
Skeleton Cop serves as both a shameless spoof of and loving tribute to “buddy cop” and action flicks of the 1980’s and 90’s. It covers all the clichés found in those films, while treating them with the level of maturity found in an issue of Mad Magazine. Anyone who grew up reading Mad Magazine knows to take that statement as a compliment.
Our friend, Alex Lopez of Ghoul Inc Productions, provides the film’s soundtrack. Another of the film’s stronger points, the music has a very heavy 80’s “action film” vibe to it, which helps the film flow. However, if I must find one flaw with the film, there is some issue with the gunfire effects sounding very static heavy, and seemingly cutting out altogether at times. While this is not nearly enough to ruin the film, it can be quite jarring at times.
Ultimately, Skeleton Cop is nothing more than a quick dose of dumb fun. And really, it doesn’t set out to be much more than that. By these standards, the film is an admirable success. It is abundantly clear that all parties involved in production of the film are not only huge fans of classic action films and B-grade cinema in general, but that each one is clearly having a blast working on the film. I can honestly say that I had just as much fun watching the finished product, no bones about it. Sorry, I had to get in at least one skeleton pun.
If nothing else, Skeleton Cop serves as a compelling “Proof of Concept”; a hint of what could be if Knauer had a larger budget to work with. There is a potential “cult classic” in the makings here. Then again, maybe not. Maybe Knauer was smart enough to know just when to end his film, preventing the joke from becoming stale and overstaying its welcome.
For more information on the film, check out the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SkeletonCopKino