Skeletons in the Closet (April 26/02)
Though it's got an intriguing premise - a father suspects his son may in fact be a murderer - Skeletons in the Closet just doesn't have enough plot to sustain a 90 minute movie.
Treat Williams stars as the father, while Jonathan Jackson plays the son. We find out early on that the wife/mother died several years prior, under suspicious circumstances. Jackson's always suspected Williams set the fire that killed her, which has caused a chasm-sized rift between the two. But Williams finally begins to suspect that something might just be awry when a local boy is found murdered, and his son just happened to be the last person to see him. Add to that some increased drinking and some rowdy behavior at a party, and Williams has good reason to believe that his son just may be a sociopath. But it's not quite that simple. The movie gives us good reason to believe that Jackson might be completely innocent, and that Williams' paranoid delusions are just a cover-up for his own malfeasance.
The history behind Skeletons in the Closet, detailed in the DVD's accompanying booklet, is long and winding - and ultimately proves that perhaps there was a reason it took ten years for this movie to get made. It's certainly not the fault of the actors the movie doesn't work - indeed, Williams has never been better. No, the sparse plot may have been effective as a 20-minute short, but as a feature-length film, it's stretched far too thinly. It doesn't help that the movie's been shot on digital video, and winds up resembling a cheapie PBS special rather than a film. There are certain cases in which shooting digital actually enhances the mood of the movie - The Blair Witch Project being the most obvious example - but here it just doesn't work.
And as intriguing as the story idea is, it's also a shade too obvious. Though we don't find out until the last two minutes who the actual killer is, it's no big surprise. You don't exactly have to be Columbo to figure out if it's the dad or the son doing the murdering, which leads to a suspenseless atmosphere. There's no tension here, and when it comes to thrillers, that's about the worst transgression that exists.
But the acting's good, at least. Williams, an underrated actor that'll probably never get his due, strikes just the right note as a father who slowly comes to a horrific realization - though nobody seems to believe him. Jackson is also good, though due to the limitations of shooting on digital video, his performance often comes off as a little forced and over-the-top.
Skeletons in the Closet is a little too obvious and far too slow to be an effective thriller, though it may just be worth checking out for Treat Williams' performance.