Starring: Jamie Lyn Bagley, Michael Schantz, Mark Resnik, Zach Gillette, Bryan Manley Davis, Laurence Mullaney, Ria Burns-Wilder
Director: Kurtis Spieler
Writer: Kurtis Spieler
Running time: 80 minutes
Rated: None (contains language, violence)
Reviewed by Michael Juvinall
I’m sure most of you are aware of the phrase “Beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing.” It’s a fable of Biblical origin and has been passed down from generation to generation, changing very little over the ages. Metaphorically, it means under a sheep’s skin often hides a wolfish mind or those playing a role contrary to their real character. From the Bible, the phrase has come to mean, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s skin, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” – Wikipedia
Writer and director Kurtis Spieler uses this idiom as the basis for his independent horror film Sheep Skin. The feature length film is based upon Spieler’s 2007 short film of the same name. Spieler has taken his short and expanded upon it.
The storyline is simple, Nathan (Michael Schantz) and his punk rock bandmates, Clive (Zach Gillette), Dylan (Ria Burns-Wilder) and Marcus (Bryan Manley Davis) kidnap Todd (Laurence Mullaney), a businessman who they believe is responsible for the murder of Nathan’s sister and other women. Nathan’s sister was having an affair with Todd at the time of her murder.
The real kicker is that Nathan’s sister and other murder victims were all killed and torn to pieces by what the police say is a bear or other animal of substantial size. Nathan begins digging and discovers that not only were the victims all murdered by some large animal, but all the attacks happened during a full moon. Nathan realizes that to his horror, his sister had to be murdered by a werewolf and he suspects Todd of being the beast. Nathan convinces his bandmates that this guy really is a werewolf and they have to kidnap him to find out for sure. Is Todd really a werewolf or is Nathan just delusional from his grief. He has to find out while they have Todd held captive, but they have to hurry because the full moon is on the rise.
Even with the simplicity of the premise, I found myself really enjoying this film. The opening bloody crime scene montage really sets the tone for the rest of the movie. The film almost entirely takes place in a warehouse where they take the suspected werewolf Todd after they kidnap and interrogate him. With the brisk 80 minute run time, the film never gets boring. The filmmakers do a great job of keeping the viewer’s interest, even with the limited location. The story keeps you guessing right up until the very end about whether Todd really is a werewolf.
The acting performances in Sheep Skin far surpassed my expectations for a film of such a limited budget. I was thoroughly impressed by the main cast in this film. They all proved to be outstanding in their roles. I really enjoyed Michael Schantz’s performance in the lead role. He played a man determined to seek revenge for his sister’s death but also having to accept the nightmarish scenario that a werewolf may have been responsible. His character struggles with what he has to do and Schantz pulls it off marvelously. Also, the secondary character of Marcus, played by Bryan Manley Davis is one to watch. He plays the role of the lone unsure and reluctant participant in the operation to perfection.
Unfortunately, when you have a limited budget such as this one something usually is lacking and in this case it’s the audio. There were multiple scenes in the warehouse when the group is interrogating Todd that his dialogue is so low you can barely hear it. I really had to struggle at times to make out what he was saying, even with the volume turned up.
This film has some blood and gore but not a lot. The makeup effects are very well done, all seemed to be practical and not CGI, so that’s a plus. Kudos to the makeup department for what they were able to pull off with the limited budget.
The end result is quite a good film with a solid story and cast. Sheep Skin is not your run-of-the-mill werewolf flick. The dialogue is the real star here. If you look deeper, the film is a metaphor for what some of us are hiding underneath. We all look normal on the outside but under the surface lies a beast covered in Sheep Skin.
4 out of 5 Pentagrams!
Watch the trailer here,