THE SKIN WILL MAKE YOU JUMP OUT OF YOURS!

The Skin

From the small, beach-blessed Caribbean island of Antigua comes The Skin, a full-length feature film screened at Toronto’s CaribbeanTales Film Festival as part of its North American/European-wide tour. The fourth film by husband-and-wife team Howard and Mitzi Allen, The Skin is a supernatural thriller steeped in Caribbean folkloric mysticism made doubly eerie by its seemingly normal setting in a fine villa in modern Antigua.

Plot-wise, paying that villa’s mortgage is young couple Lisa and Michael Fenton’s driving concern as the bank moves to foreclose on them. But despite Lisa’s determined efforts to raise money, even a yard sale of all their household belongings added to photographer Michael’s assignments, they always fall short.

Their luck changes (for the scarier!) when Michael happens upon a centuries-old vase buried deep in the ruins of Betty’s Hope, a former sugar estate. (Spoiler alert: he notices it while peeing in the woods after a photo shoot there.) Lisa scrubs the filthy vase clean, rinses out its disgusting and unidentifiable contents, and Michael sells it to Felix, an expatriate antique dealer, for enough money to acquit their mortgage and indulge in a clothes-shopping spree.

Michael and Felix

And that’s when the normalcy of the everyday world spins into the mystery of the demonic past, and the thoroughly modern Fentons make the terrifying acquaintance of a soucayant, an evil spirit disguised by day as an gruesome crone who strips off her skin at night and assumes the form of a fireball to penetrate random victims’ homes in search of blood or a baby she can sacrifice.

Lisa remains sceptical about things supernatural. But when the mystic Vision arrives from Jamaica to work counter-magic, her unbelief is a sharp counterpoint to the escalating nightly terror wrought by the enraged soucayant in an increasingly frenzied search for her skin.

Lisa struggles with belief in the soucayant

The Skin’s special effects are as sophisticated and otherworldly as the dialogue is simple and matter-of-fact. This is a triumph (among many) in a film produced for the stupendously low dollar figure of US $100,000. It is also a tribute to Mitzi Allen’s producer’s genius, who ensured that every dollar earned by product placement, from rolls of Cottonelle in the bathroom to a whirlwind shopping spree and fashion show in Antiguan clothing shops, was stretched to gossamer thinness.

Howard and Mitzi Allen

The characters were ably acted by emerging Antiguan actors (Aisha Ralph as Lisa, Brent Simon as Michael) and renowned Jamaican actors Carl Bradshaw (Vision) and Peter Williams (Detective Morgan). Antiguan dancer and choreographer Veron Stoute Humphreys, who made a sensational acting debut as the soucayant, deserves special mention. All played to the gently sardonic humour – a brief closeup of the supercilious, womanizing detective as he gazed at Lisa’s shapely ass, the big For Sale sign at film’s end – that provoked rollicking belly-laughs from the delighted audience. It served as well to heighten the contrast between the tranquillity of today’s Antigua and the roiling, danger-filled Antigua of yesteryear, when the slavery and brutality of the sugar world ruled the land.

“I wanted,” director Howard Allen explained, “to tell the story of Caribbean folklore and history as simply as possible, without recrimination and retribution.” The post-screening outpouring of applause and congratulations from audience members, men and women who jumped up and declared their pride in his achievements, were proof of his success. By juxtaposing a narrative that was a combination of thriller and supernatural drama, Allen has developed a confident, laconic cinematic style that speaks volumes to his passion and commitment.

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “THE SKIN WILL MAKE YOU JUMP OUT OF YOURS!

  1. Aideen Ratteray Pryse

    Hi Peter – Do you have contact details for the filmmakers? Aideen

  2. Paul O. Beale

    I am following this project because 1) I feel good about it and 2) because I think hard positive work must be rewarded… Paul O. Beale

  3. I’ll link you guys @Aideen … cool little effort this!

  4. Barbara

    keep going Howard & Mitzi

  5. Pingback: Review: The Skin will make you jump out of yours! « THE SKIN – A HAMA Film

  6. Norma J. Charles - Framingham, Massachusetts USA

    Very impressed with the review; hope I get a chance to see the project. Always proud and happy to support the efforts of brothers and sisters of the Soil. Antigua and Barbuda love you forever!!

  7. I also loved the movie, Elizabeth! Your commentary on the plot and casting, as well as on the music and special effects of the movie is right on!

    “The Skin” is one of those films that will always remain with the viewer, not only for the natural beauty of Antigua and Barbuda where the story takes place, but for the engaging plot line that kept the audience at the edge of their seats, throughout the movie. I particularly enjoyed the juxtaposition of the modern day setting with a mythological evil spirit of Soucayant, a blood-thirsty ghost hunting down people and young children for their life-giving blood. The role of the Jamaican mystic, played by Carl Bradshaw, was witty and quirky and entrancing! The whole cast was very effective in bringing to life this intriguing story. The special effects were dazzling, especially considering the tight budget for the film. The audience was thrilled!!! I am certain that the Howard and Mitzi Allen’s tour will be a huge success, and I look forward to HAMA Films future productions.

  8. I also loved the movie, Elizabeth! Your commentary on the plot and casting, as well as on the music and special effects of the movie is right on!

    “The Skin” is one of those films that will always remain with the viewer, not only for the natural beauty of Antigua and Barbuda where the story takes place, but for the engaging plot line that kept the audience at the edge of their seats, throughout the movie. I particularly enjoyed the juxtaposition of the modern day setting with a mythological evil spirit of Soucayant, a blood-thirsty ghost hunting down people and young children for their life-giving blood. The role of the Jamaican mystic, played by Carl Bradshaw, was witty and quirky and entrancing! The whole cast was very effective in bringing to life this intriguing story. The special effects were dazzling, especially considering the tight budget for the film. The audience was thrilled!!! I am certain that the Howard and Mitzi Allen’s tour will be a huge success, and I look forward to HAMA Films future productions.

  9. Pingback: Playwrights and Screenwriters (the Antigua-Barbuda connection) | Wadadli Pen

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