Master thieves Blair and Ollie have known heists for most of their young lives but promise themselves one more job before a long overdue retirement with their stashed earnings. When the job goes South and Ollie gets pinched by the police, Blair has to use all of their savings and borrow on top from a ruthless crime boss to utilize his connections for Ollie be released from jail. With the first payment due in a week, Ollie and Blair have no choice but to put their lives in the hands of Blair’s brother Connor, a two-bit thief with a seemingly full-proof plan of scoring big at a vacant vacation home. The only problem is is that the home is a murder den for a deranged serial killer and with being trapped from the inside, Blair, Ollie, Connor, and their crew are being separated in a maze of murder with no way out.
“Crush the Skull” is a cleverly scribed 2015 horror-comedy from writer-director Viet Nguyen and co-star, co-writer Chris Dinh that was molded from the brimstone and fire of two successful short films, “Crush the Skull 1” and “Crush the Skull 2,” and a modest crowd funded financial backing that brought this witty and terrorizing film to fruition. Seriously, it’s been a long time since I’ve been entertained and jumpy with a film, especially one that’s working with a little more than a $75,000 budget. The superb character development and dialogue produces lively characters built upon an established dynamic group of tight knit actors whose on screen chemistry is beyond just a spark. Much of the character interactions are comical with a wrap around horror story and the mixture is purely potent and damn good that’s trying to pinpoint whether “Crush the Skull” is a dark-comedy or a flat out thriller.
The unconventional lead man Chris Dinh is Ollie, the quintessential good guy despite his lawbreaking thievery profession and Dinh provides a semi-serious, semi-standup comedian performance that makes Ollie likable. What also makes Ollie likable is the character’s main concern ultimately lies with concerning for the love of his life Blair, casted by the gorgeously talented Katie Savoy. Savoy’s Blair has fathomless compassion for Ollie and the Boston-bred, actress can imitate that affection, stating she would do anything for her lover. Both characters connect well within the context of the roles played by Dinh and Savoy, but connect them with actors Chris Riedell and Tim Chiou and you have a fearsome foursome of hilarity. The merciless jabs, the daunting quips, the pleasantly bad jokes, and the utter goofiness somehow manages to be experienced very naturally from the hapless heist team of Connor (Riedell) and his simple-minded, light-hearted crew Riley (Chiou). Though Connor is far more bright than Riley, their additions add colorful farce to production, causing more mayhem than mending to Ollie and Blair’s predicament.
“Crush the Skull” doesn’t strike as a very effective horror title at first glance with a slight vapidness about it. Yet, the title works as an appreciation to the series of events leading up the final moments when reformed do-gooders combat a demented and unspeakable evil and only then does the title reach out, grip tightly your neck, and slap you right in fat part of your cheek. Now, that’s a horror title! The horror portion inside this genre blend is an effective outer hull providing a superstructure of motivation and to stimulation. “Crush the Skull” doesn’t splinter at the first sight of blood, keeping the bones intact to scare the pants off edgy audiences when the diabolical game begins between naive robbers and a calculated killer until the instant of truth serves a fracturing blow that’s hard to reset. Nguyen and Dinh’s script isn’t overly gory; in fact, with a few blood splatters and a brief moment of a decapitated body, gore shouldn’t even be in the film’s glossary, but their script works diligently and brilliant along side amazingly gritty production design of the maze-like torture dungeon from Eloise Ayala to produce traumatic moments of gut-wrenching terror that’s hard to forget.
Breaking Glass Pictures absolutely crushes it distributing “Crush the Skull” on a not rated DVD. The 80 minute film is presented on a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio DVD9 MPEG-2 disc with an English Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. No issues with video and audio qualities with balanced color hues and audible tracks though the David Frank Long score was generically clunky at times as I swear I’ve heard that particular score before in other microbudget films. A small band of powerfully punching bonus features include both shorts that I’ve mentioned prior to and an informative behind-the-scnes with the cast and crew speaking about their experiences of the 18 day shoot. “Crush the Skull” is one part “The Bone Collector” and two parts “Silver Streak” with Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor – an entertaining cult inspiring horror-comedy that’s shamefully too far under the radar.