Eighteen year old Naomi Arkoff just wants to be like other teenagers. She wants to see the world, go to college, talk on a cell phone and listen to music on an iPod. But her father has made his feelings about things like cell phones and iPods very clear. When he catches her with a cell phone, it’s down to the dungeon where he puts her on the rack. Next time, he warns her, her punishment won’t be so light.
And as for college, her mother tells her, there’s nothing out there in the world worth seeing. If Naomi wants an education, her family will hire tutors.
Then one day a movie crew comes knocking on the door. They’re scouting locations for the director’s first feature and think the Italian castle where the Arkoffs live would be perfect. No can do, Mr. Arkoff says, we don’t want outsiders here. But Naomi goes upstairs to ask her bedridden grandfather to at least think about letting the crew film there; she thinks the director, Jenson, is really nice.
The three-person crew, Jenson, producer Kimi, and Italian producer LJ come for dinner where Mrs. Arkoff tells them the legend of the Skull Heads, guardians of the castle born from magic, with the power to either take life or bring the dead back to life. After dinner, Naomi shows the crew around the castle.
Little does she know, they’re not making a movie, they’re casing the joint with the intention of coming back tomorrow after the Arkoffs have gone to bed. Maybe they should have paid more attention to the legend of the castle’s protectors.
SKULL HEADS is another in a long line of Charles Band’s Full Moon Features that has a decent premise--this one’s even got an adequate set-up--but then falls completely apart in the home stretch. Maybe it’s me. But when I see a movie called SKULL HEADS and then learn that the skull heads are protectors of a castle, then learn that the castle and its inhabitants are in danger, I’m kind of expecting the protectors of that castle, after whom the movie is named, to take a bigger part in the climax of the film.
Granted, they do what they do and things happen, but this is a Charles Band movie. I’m used to seeing a movie stuffed full of miniature effects, killer dolls, puppets, gingerbread men, etc. But this time around, in a 78-minute movie, the skull heads probably get a collective 8 minutes of screen time. That’s not what I signed on for; I was expecting to see the skull heads slicing and dicing their way through the cast.
Instead, we get some family secret twist that, while it makes sense in terms of the plot so far and actually answered several questions I had, it also took things in a much more off-center direction. Maybe that was Band’s plan, but if so, then name the movie something else, name it THE ARKOFF SECRET or something. If you’re gonna name the movie something so specific as SKULL HEADS, I’d expect the skull heads to take center stage in act three.
The acting wasn’t too terrible, although Steve Kramer (“Sons of Anarchy”) and Samantha Light (THE NEIGHBORLY THING) as Naomi’s parents were a bit over the top. Robyn Sydney (THE GINGERDEAD MAN) as Naomi was fun to watch, playing an eighteen year old with the mentality of a ten year old. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with Naomi, necessarily, but she’s lived her whole life in the castle, never been to the nearby village or interacted with the outside world, so in many ways she is still very much a small child. And Sydney works that angle really well.
In fact, her performance is one of the few bright spots of the entire movie. For the most part I found SKULL HEADS to be slow and uninteresting as a movie. The story lacked any real excitement until maybe the last ten minutes, and then everything happens so fast, there’s no time to play on it and build any suspense. So once again, Charles Band has come up with a story that’s not all that bad, and could be made into something pretty good, if it had been made by someone with a little more patience, someone actually interested in the idea of “story” in general, someone willing to take that kernel and development it into something audiences can really get behind.
Personally I think Band’s attention span and willingness to spend any real time or effort into telling the best, most exciting and suspenseful story he can is only working against him. It’s certainly not resulting in impressive movies. I understand he’s filling a niche, but half the time it feels like he’s not even trying.