It’s just another day in a small New Mexican town. The folks of the small community go about their normal daily business never realizing that on the outskirts of town there is an evil just waiting for the sun to go down. That evil comes in the form of a young man named Phillip who is out to get his fathers attention. It’s going to be a special effort though because you see Phillip’s father is Charles Manson and in the span of one night Phillip plans on continuing his father’s business.
Director: Scott Phillips
Starring: Billy Garberina, Ashley Bryce, Mark Chavez, Wendy Jay
“It’s the family business.”
Scott Phillips’s Gimme Skelter would feel right at home sitting on a shelf next to many 1970’s exploitation films. There are all of the things one would expect to find in one of those classic all here and repackaged in one smart and fun package.
Gimme Skelter’s story is an easy one to figure out. The film begins by showing a sleazy strip bar’s parking lot. A rather creepy looking man pulls into the parking lot and makes his way into the bar. You can tell that the guy is up to no good, but Mr. Phillips doesn’t give you much time to digest viewing him before your eyes are shown naked flesh. Gimme Skelter definitely doesn’t skimp on the nudity, blood, and foul language and it lets you know all of this from the very start. To rush this along however creepy guy ends up meeting up with a dancer who takes him into the back for a private dance. The two of them talk and he decides to meet up with her after work.
When the two meet up after work the dancer quickly goes behind a wall and begins to change out of her clothing, allowing for more gratuitous nudity! The creepy guy starts to handle a small hatchet letting the viewer know his intentions; it really is too bad that he doesn’t see the knife that the dancer is hiding behind her back when she comes out from behind the wall. The first death in Gimme Skelter kind of looks as if someone is just spraying blood up in the air while the actress flails around with her knife, it’s the after shot that gets you and you realize that maybe these people know what they are doing. After the initial murder the viewer is treated to a great credit sequence and this is where you will learn that the soundtrack to Gimme Skelter simply rocks!
When the film starts again we are introduced to Todd and Jonda who are a young couple in a small New Mexican town. To give you folks some idea of how small this town is there is only one woman in the whole community who has an internet connection, there is only one police officer, and a guy named Porter Sandford (played by genre veteran Gunnar Hansen) owns most of the property around the community. Todd and Jonda however are a very young and good looking couple; they really don’t look like most of the community around them.
Todd is running late and Jonda is following him around, the girl is in love with the boy but she is quite irritating about it. Luckily Todd meets up with one of his friends for breakfast and they get to talk about it. It seems Todd and Jonda have been together for close to three years and what was once cute and adorable is now quite annoying. The scenes with Todd and his friend allow for a change of pace during Gimme Skelter, the two of them give each other advice and their topics range from “should I call her” to “is it cheating to watch another girl piss”.
Todd leaves the restaurant and makes his way through the town stopping off at the local gas station to get himself a candy bar. While at the gas station he meets up with this rather strange girl who is new to town. It doesn’t take long, in fact Scott Phillips doesn’t even give the viewer an explanation, before Todd and the strange girl are in a back alley doing the old in out. Luckily for Todd Jonda just happens to be at the local grocery store which is right near the alley where the deed is being done, so of course the dummy gets caught.
After their nasty little romp the strange girl asks Todd if he would like to go meet her friends. The girl walks Todd to the outskirts of town where he sees a van with five other people hanging around it, one of them being the dancer from the opening sequence. Todd of course doesn’t feel very comfortable, it really doesn’t help that the strange girl says their leader Phillip is the son of Jesus Christ either. Todd does what any normal sane person would do and that is getting the hell out of dodge.
Todd quickly runs home and finds Jonda to be rather upset, actually she handles it quite well if you watch the scene. Having no where else to go Todd goes to shack up with his friend hoping that everything will blow over. To make things even worse the strange girl and her group of friends are planning quite an evening for the small town. Phillip believes himself to be the son of Charles Manson and on this night he is going to out do his father by having his family murder the entire small community. Poor Todd just can’t win these days now can he?
Gimme Skelter is a fun movie and it is actually very fast paced. Once the night comes and the new family goes into town to start their spree though it just gets down chaotic. Exploitation fans this movie was made for you, I haven’t seen this much gratuitous violence and nudity in one film in quite some time and combine it with the soundtrack and you almost feel like you are watching a movie from the 1970’s.
Most of the characters in Gimme Skelter are disposable so it really doesn’t matter when the acting isn’t that good. Mark Chavez who plays Todd however is quite convincing in his role and actually was entertaining to watch, genre vets like Gunnar Hansen and Trent Haaga also pull through with their small yet very entertaining roles.
The gore score of Gimme Skelter is a little different. Most of the murders in the film are simply stabbings so the scenes are shot like the opening sequence with a lot of blood squirting and arms flailing. The aftermaths FX though are very good and stomach churning. There’s a great sequence in which a persons hand is sliced between the fingers and one of the family members starts to pull the fingers apart spreading the cut wider.
The climax of Gimme Skelter isn’t built up very much; it simply just starts to happen during the last twenty minutes or so of the film. I’m not saying that it is a bad climax but Scott Phillips seems to have trouble capturing small details that make the bigger picture much clearer. An example of this is of course the sequence near the beginning of the film in which Todd and the strange girl have sex, it never shows what exactly lead up to such a thing and it happens quite a few times in the movie.
Scott Phillips did a good job of hiding all kinds of Manson jokes throughout the film however. After the first murder in the town the group tries to decide if they should write something on the walls in blood and a few of them actually spurt out quotes from the Manson family before Phillip gets frustrated and tells everyone to shut up. Though it is very black or dirty Scott Phillips has filled the script of Gimme Skelter with a lot of humor that can be appreciated in between scenes of the red stuff splashing around.
If you like your movies more on the exploitative side what are you waiting for Gimme Skelter needs to be on your shelf right now!