How many slasher flicks can you think of where a woman is being chased through a graveyard by a killer; she stops, and hammers on a window of the adjoining church for help, only to be greeted by a grinning Liberace look-a-like in a ruby sequined jacket hammering away on the piano? Not many I'll wager. And that's because SKULLDUGGERY is possibly the strangest slasher flick of them all. Unfortunately, it may be oddball, but it's also pretty dreadful.
Back in the 80s, like many a geeky teen, I dabbled in role playing games. Graduating from Dungeons & Dragons to the more sophisticated chills of Call of Cthulhu. Back then, role playing was such hot property that a number of films were made to cash in on the craze. And someone had the bright idea to try a meld them with a slasher movie – and then, presumably, took half their bodyweight in magic mushrooms before settling down to bang out the script to SKULLDUGGERY.
The film centres around the totally charisma free character of Adam (Thom Haverstock), who lives in the curiously named Trotterville (actually Toronto – so you can blame the Canadians for this one!). This morose young man joins several friends (although they all seem to dislike each other), to sit around a board game with a cheap cardboard castle in the middle. There's also a token girl, Barbara (Wendy Crewson), who's the nurse daughter of the man who owns the costume shop where Adam works. Predictably, much time is wasted (for the audience) with talk of weapon scores and rolling the dice. However, things aren't quite what they seem. Adam is actually the descendent of a family that was cursed by devil worshippers back in 14th Century England (shown in a prologue of such wooden ineptitude that it's almost a new art form). So, everything in the game takes on a sinister new twist (or so the makers were presumably hoping).
It seems that Adam is cursed to carry out the murderous proclamations in the game in real life (although possessed and non-possessed Adam both have faces like smacked arse, so it's difficult to tell them apart). This comes to the fore during the Trotterville Junior College talent night (but there's precious little talent on show). Perhaps in a stroke of genius (or more possibly desperation), the director covers up the fact that few of his cast can act, by getting them to play bad on purpose on stage. Unfortunately, this means that we're stuck with endless minutes of unfunny skits and a magic routine by a guy with more make-up on than Joan Collins on the pull. A bit like how TERROR TRAIN (1979) grinds to halt every time David Copperfield does a trick. Coincidentally, Thom Haverstock is also in that much better slice of subgenre mayhem.
Anyway, Adam's Thespian skills are called upon when one of the actors doesn't show. Dressed as a medieval knight he looses it and goes after the leading lady with a bloody great sword. She manages to evade him, pithily saying to anyone who'll listen, “If it weren't for that shithead Piccolo everything would have been perfect!”. Later she's crushed to death on stage by a giant python during a skit on Adam and Eve, although to everyone but Adam it appears that she has had a heart attack.
With his first victim under his belt, Adam continues on his quest to rid the world of bad actors and actresses one ham at a time ...
SKULLDUGGERY could have had potential, but it gets hopelessly bogged down in faux-mysticism and wilful obscurity – not to mention a nonsensical storyline. I guess they were aiming for a surreal edge, and sometimes it works: the afore mentioned graveyard chase scene, which also has a sinister family by a fresh grave and an old lady who shouts, “They think it's a Rolling Stones concert, stupid assholes!”, when the victim-to-be tramples the flowers on her husband's grave. Then there's the scene where Adam dresses as a bunny rabbit and stabs a woman to death. Plus, there's the disco bunny in roller skates who gets dismembered with a meat cleaver and then cooked in the oven. And to top it off, there's the frankly bizarre section at the hospital with the doctor dressed as a gorilla for no apparent reason.
It veers into and then darts away from the subgenre's conventions. But, whilst there's a number of chase scenes, precious little suspense is generated. Ultimately, it's like a bad – and unforgivably dull – cheese dream.
Confusion reigns (much like with every aspect of this movie), of when this was actually made. Some sources say 1979, but it says 1982 several times in the the film and the official release date was 1983.
Believe me, reading about SKULLDUGGERY is much more fun than actually sitting through it. But, if you've got a taste for the weird, unbelievably low standards and a masochistic streak the size of the Grand Canyon you might be able to sit through this without trying to smother yourself with a cushion. Just don't say you weren't warned.
BODYCOUNT 15 female:9 / male:61) Female crushed to death