The story behind director Michael J Murphy’s recent low budget, darkly comic and rather splattery Skare, is an interesting one. Basing the script on his own short story, Murphy set about filming in 2001. Disaster struck, however, when the unprocessed film got lost in the post on the way to be developed at Kodak. Murphy lost £10,000, which may not seem like that much in film production terms, but when you take into consideration that the budget was self-financed – then it is rather a lot! Thanks to the ever competent folks at Parcel Force, Murphy found himself in dept and without a film.

Skip ahead a few years and as Murphy began working on a new project, he found himself unable to let go of certain ghosts from the past. Rewriting the original script and gathering together a new cast at a new location, the tenacious filmmaker set about filming Skare once again.

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This project has obviously been a labour of love for all involved, and despite the distinct lack of budget and grainy VHS aesthetics, its sordid enthusiasm shines through. With a sharp script and tight direction, Skare resembles a 21st Century Pete Walker exploitation fest – with a gritty Cinéma vérité (re: film student project) feel and a healthy dose of sex, cannibalism and violence.

Taking its title from Skare Valley in North Wales, the original setting and location, the story focuses on middle-aged ‘Mad’ Martha (the immensely watchable Judith Holding) as she takes in an escapee from the nearby psychiatric hospital. She agrees to hide him and look after him if he works for her at an exclusive Country Club, famed for its organic food menu.

He begins to become suspicious when she places him on an organic diet and insists on a strenuous exercise regime. Even though we can tell what is going to happen by the end, it is still fun getting there and the film does take a few unexpected twists and turns. Murphy’s script prefers to focus on fleshing out the characters and the unfolding drama their shifting dynamics produces. With the central plot strand of an older woman ensnaring and lusting after a handsome young buck, Skare feels a little like a sleazy Jackie Collins fantasy; albeit a bloodier, more twisted one, with nods aplenty to Psycho, Frightmare, Delicatessen and Misery.

It would take the most mean-spirited of critics to overly fault the film's charming, budgetless composition, acting, effects or even its concept. However, what manifests itself so clearly is the verve and determination of Murphy – a stalwart of low budget thrillers, dark dramas, horrors and shoestring historical epics. Against all the odds he and his cast and crew have successfully faced off all the constraints and mishaps, resulting in a work that boasts a filming process which is nearly (if not more so) as interesting and important as the finished product itself.

Reviewed on: 18 Nov 2009
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There's a lot more to a country club cook than meets the eye...
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Director: Michael J Murphy

Writer: Michael J Murphy

Starring: Judith Holding, Warren May, Trudi Tyrrell, Jackson Payne

Year: 2007

Runtime: 82 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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