Review by Jonathan Berk
Director Asif Akbar's film Skeletons in the Closet is one of the worst movie experiences in recent memory. It's often easy to assume that such a statement is hyperbolic, but in this case, there is a plethora of evidence to prove its sincerity. From bad writing, uneven performances, and some of the worst visual effects, it makes TikTok filters look like a James Cameron production by comparison — and ultimately, nothing about this film works. Admittedly, at about two-thirds of the way through, it's possible to think this film could be "so bad that it's good," yet it quickly douses out any hope of that possibility. After 90 minutes, you'll wish you'd never looked in that damn closet.
Terrance Howard and Valery M. Ortiz are a "happily" married couple with their daughter, played by Appy Pratt. Although Ortiz is seeing ghosts, Howard loses his job, and Pratt's character's cancer has returned — and it's in her brain. Luckily, Cuba Gooding, Jr. plays Howard's brother, and he has made a connection in prison to a mobster who can help pay for the medical bills. He also knows a psychic who can offer guidance and direction to the family. There is plenty more of this nonsensical stuff to be found, but the aforementioned occurs within just the first thirty minutes of the movie.
There is some cause for concern that if Hallmark movie producers see this film, a new Hallmark Horror channel may pop up. The initial look of the film feels much more like a TV drama than a horror film. Add in melodramatic performances and constantly upping the stakes of an over-wrought plot — all with a cheesy score to back it up — and it screams Hallmark movie. Yet even the worst TV movies tend to have better-looking visual effects than what we're presented with in this film.
Late in the movie, there are several moments where things are on fire. It is the worst-looking cinematic fire one can imagine. If the fire effects had a watermark on them of the asset company the filmmakers downloaded it from, then it would have been less shocking than most of the other decisions in this film.
You're probably thinking, "Well, even if it looks bad and the plot is a bit much, surely this star-studded cast should bring it!" That would be a fair thought, but it would also be incorrect. Howard is kind of sleepwalking through the film. Gooding isn't "bad," but what he's given to work with really is, and he's not able to elevate it at all. Ortiz is giving a performance, but the story around her is so ridiculous that it's hard to call what she's doing "good." Udo Kier shows up and delivers a delightfully hammy performance, but no amount of paprika on this sandwich can save it.
It's rare to watch a movie and struggle to find any redeeming qualities within it. There is an expression that no one sets out to make a bad movie. While that is probably true most of the time, one has to wonder at what point the people involved in a bad film's production are aware of how much of a stinker it is. Skeletons in the Closet doesn't work, and it feels like someone could have predicted that in the pitch meeting.
Skeletons in the Closet will stream on Shudder on February 9.