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20th April, 2011

Skeletons

Runtime: 93 mins | Director: Nick Whitfield

Reviewed by Dan Collacott

It's not often you come across a film that brings something new to an already overcrowded table. Most films are remakes, re-imaginings or heavily derivative of the classics that laid the foundations so they could exist. This black off beat comedy won debut director Nick Whitfield the Michael Powell award at the Edinburgh film festival last year.

The premise is an odd one, two fairly downtrodden exorcists played by Andrew Buckley (Bennett) and Ed Gaughan (Davis) cross the country exhuming the hidden and often painful secrets of couples and families. There are no actual ghosts or evil spirits of the traditional supernatural kind, the skeleton in this closet is metaphorical. The duo in question present themselves like a cross between ghost busters and new age therapists as they delve into the memories of those they seek to help.

Bennett is a large, awkward yet warm hearted and lovable character who seems to find satisfaction from mapping other people's emotions and energies. Davis however is a roguish and embittered individual - treading uncomfortably through the fringes of life. He threatens their work and relationship by using his own abilities to "glow chase" which translates to him drawing blackened comfort from visiting his own uncomfortable memories. This practice is forbidden and Davis ends up being depicted like a heroin addict, partly removed from reality and only kept from the abyss by his friend and colleague.

The two are presented with the most difficult job yet when they come across a house and a family who have lost their father - although all is not as it seems. I won't go into too much detail but the net result is the dynamic of the film changes dramatically when Davis and Bennett struggle and then somehow prevail in the strangest yet most heartfelt of circumstances.

It is hard to describe the film's appeal, there is a definite dark humour and prickly layer cake of awkward emotions that underpins what is ultimately a slightly mawkish and big hearted story. The whole experience is like you watching an ITV detective story and a low budget art house suspense/thriller story that nods briefly to the horror genre.

Jason Isaacs puts in an excellent turn as 'The Colonel,' Davis and Bennett's gruff cartoon-esque boss who provides both momentum and an element of old school bullying to the plot line. Ultimately the brilliance of the film is the fact its characters don't belong within the slightly occult concept. The setting is too English to be a horror film, the comedy too dry for there to be any emotion or romance there and yet all these ingredients blend together to create a truly original and compelling film.


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