October Horrorshow: The Skeptic

Hey, Hollywood. Cut Netflix some slack. The other day I was on Netflix’s streaming service looking for a horror flick about a haunting to watch, and the best I could come up with was The Skeptic, a movie I had no idea even existed. In fact, most of the movies in Netflix’s streaming horror queue are a complete mystery to me. This particular flick was just about the highest-rated there was for what I was looking for, and it barely cracked two stars. I did a little more research, and found that it raked in a grand total of six thousand bucks at the box office. That is just pathetic. Someone, somewhere, please sit down in a room and don’t leave until you figure out how to deliver me more than Hollywood leftovers in on demand service. I’ll pay a few more bucks a month, I swear.

The Skeptic was written and directed by Tennyson Bardwell, and stars Tim Daly, the veteran television actor. Tom Arnold and Andrea Roth both have supporting roles. Owing to this cast, for the first half hour of the flick, until someone dropped their first f-bomb, I wasn’t sure whether or not I was watching a made for television movie. Robert Prosky plays a priest, as well. This was his last film, continuing a proud Hollywood tradition whereby old actors’ last performances before they die are in shitty movies. Oh, I almost forgot. Zoe Saldana has a large role in the film as a precocious, free-spirited psychic. She probably doesn’t list this movie in the resume stapled to her headshot.

Tim Daly is a skeptic, a mercilessly logical lawyer, cold to the touch, who inherits his aunt’s house after she dies. But, it turns out the place is haunted. Zoe Saldana shows up and walks Daly through remembering the tragic events in his past that precipitated the haunting. And then, just when the film was going somewhere, The Skepticit ends. The resolution came so quickly and suddenly that I was caught completely off guard, and not in a good way. The film felt like it had a good half hour left to go. This story was nowhere near settled, and then Tim Daly dies and the credits roll. What? Spoiler alert? Don’t pretend like you were going to watch this movie anyways.

It’s too bad the film ended the way it did, because it really was getting interesting. Daly, quite surprisingly, owned his role. I bought everything about him. His coldness, followed by rage and confusion, finally grief. This film had the potential to be a good ghost story, but Bardwell couldn’t seal the deal. Alien: Resurrection is a better movie than The Skeptic.

But, I never should have had to find that out. The walls that we have placed around information are becoming untenable with every day that goes by. I’m not advocating free movies for all, but I don’t doubt for a second that our children or our grandchildren are going to look back at the early days of the internet and shake their heads at just how tenaciously and inadvisably the old media magnates held on to content. Go ahead, try and find a good movie on Netflix streaming. Search the word ‘haunting’ and see what comes up. A big steaming pile of shit, that’s what.

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