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Review by: Jeremy Ritter
MY SKIN (2002)/SCREAM FOR ME (2000)
Starring: Tony Simmons, Lisa Montague, and Rick Wildridge (My Skin); Gabriel Sigal, Tony Simmons, and Lora Cunningham (Scream For Me)
Written and directed by Christopher Alan Broadstone
Released by Black Cab Productions

Short films are a tough medium to work in. Like their literary counterparts, they have only so much space (or time) to accomplish the same effect as their longer brethren.

In his two short films My Skin and Scream For Me, writer/director Christopher Alan Broadstone certainly achieves effect. Both are highly energetic, creepy, and interesting. In fact, the only real drawbacks to each film are their respective running times.

The main feature, My Skin, opens with a man in a mask (Tony Simmons), a dead woman, a smoking gun, and a mysterious ledger. The man suddenly swoops down and begins furiously writing over a document, all the while chastising a man over the phone. This conversation serves as the crux of the movie, so it can’t be detailed here lest any spoilers be used. Why is this man here, scribbling and screaming? Who’s the guy on the other end, and why is his wife dead?

My Skin is an eerie take on a classic horror tale. Broadstone uses swooping cameras and a terrific score by Brian Sussman to create a sense of complete and utter chaos. Simmons is perfect. Essentially, this is his show, since he’s the only “living” character on screen. His light growl is all menace and taunts, and it sells the role.

The only problem is that, while you can glean the story’s big twist, you may still be left in the air by the time the movie’s over. My Skin could use maybe a minute or two more just to make the events a little less murky. Blink, and you’ll miss a vital clue to why the woman lies dead on that floor. My Skin produces the dread, and that shot of Simmons looking down at you, perched on a bookshelf is a frighteningly memorable one. One or two more minutes, and it would be perfect.

The second feature, Scream for Me, has the exact opposite problem: it could easily lose some time for the story it’s telling. Gabriel Sigal plays a serial killer strangling a young woman (Lora Cunningham) while uttering the titular line and the reasons for his madness. He kills her, only to have to face a new threat: a big, burly hick (Simmons again) who wanted the woman for himself. But hey, some people are willing to make do with what’s available, so long as it’s living.

Scream for Me does have intensity to it. There’s no denying that. From the opening strangulation to the hick’s solution to the dilemma, it packs a strong visceral punch. The movie has an in-your-face energy that isn’t seen too often these days, both in short- and feature-length films.

The problem is the story really isn’t that different from millions of serial-killer flicks that have preceded it. Sigal’s character is the creepy meek killer we’ve seen before in Psycho, while Simmons’ role could have easily been played by somebody like Bill Moseley or even Bill Paxton circa Near Dark. Both actors perform their parts well, but it’s hard to truly appreciate it simply because we’ve seen these characters before. There’s nothing new to truly make them interesting. Scream for Me also goes on a little too long. It’s not that it’s too hard to watch; instead, it’s that the movie could have used some tightening. Sigal’s ending monologue would be the first place to cut. It comes off as a bit pretentious after what we’ve seen, and it ends up feeling more like an add-on to show the movie has a brain rather than a natural closer.

In all fairness, though, Scream for Me is the earlier of the two films, and for all its weaknesses, it’s still more interesting than many debut films. Both it and My Skin are great showcases for Broadstone’s talent and inventiveness behind the camera. He brings such ferocious energy to the short films that one can only be excited to see what he does with a full-length feature film.