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SOS: Save Our Skins
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by Jay Seaver

"Fan films are coming a long way."
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2014 BOSTON SCI-FI FILM FESTIVAL: Not too many years ago, something like "SOS: Save Our Skins" might have existed, but in a much different form: Passed around science fiction conventions on progressively blurrier VHS tapes, performed by folks "acting" for the first time (quotation marks necessary), and making self-referential jokes about the low production values because otherwise, they wouldn't even be funny. Today, sci-fi fandom may still be a niche, but it's a large enough one to not only include people with an actual knack for this stuff who have had the chance to hone their chops on internet video series, but to be targeted by folks with a little money. And while "SOS" may not have as much in the way of resources as, say, "Paul", but it's got much more going for it than its ancestors.

It has a similar starting point to Paul: Two English sci-fi fans and longtime friends, Stephan (Chris Hayward) and Ben (Nat Saunders) who have traveled to the States for a convention. When they awaken, though, they find both their hotel and the entire city of New York curiously empty, and while a video on the internet suggests that there may be answers in Toronto, the only people they encounter on the way are a decidedly odd old man (Tom Bolton) and a girl (Hannah Spear) who, while pretty, is smeared with blood, wearing a straightjacket, and repeating "kill!" without saying much else.

Looking through the prior credits of the folks involved, it's clear that while most have yet to really break into mainstream film and television, they've got some practice with this kind of material: Stars and writers Chris Hayward and Nat Saunders have been working as a team, both on various web-based projects and in the writing rooms of various UK sitcoms, while Hannah Spear has had a web series or two of her own, and all seem at least passably familiar with reference-heavy "nerd humor". They even deploy it fairly well; usually going for an actual joke about how these guys act rather than just mentioning a title and hoping for a laugh out of recognition.

Hayward and Saunders turn out to be even more valuable in front of the camera than behind it, even if that's not their usual role. They know how to play off each other and what makes a conversation that could otherwise be exasperating funny, and do a modern version of one of the comedy basics, with Saunders as the goofy, impractical, maybe kind of dim one who says the weird things while Hayward plays the practical straight man who will occasionally let slip that he's more like than the other than he'd have people think. They know these rhythms, and they've got a game co-star in Hannah Spear, who dives into her part with enough gusto that it's a bit of a pleasant surprise when she pulls a new trick or two out toward the end.

This decent group is dropped in the middle of a movie that, thankfully, doesn't look entirely cheap. Although some of the initial scenes in the hotel have a quick "let's shoot this before people get here and kick us out" vibe to them and the whole film has a somewhat dull video sheen, director Kent Sobey and his crew do a fair job of simulating an empty New York City with a little bit more scale than a fan film would have. Creature and occasional gore effects are decent, and the filmmakers generally do a good job of playing up to their limitations without ending up on the wrong side, or only engaging in self-mockery when it's actually funny rather than just an attempt to cover.

Admittedly, this screening at this festival represents a friendlly audience, and despite my occasional grumbling, I'm a part of that group. I don't know how well "SOS" would play outside of the sci-fi and horror fans that would have passed it around thirty years ago, but those fans will laugh, and more often than not because the gags are funny as opposed to just recognizable.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=26295&reviewer=371
originally posted: 02/14/14 23:33:18
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 Boston SciFi Film Festival For more in the 2014 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival series, click here.

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2/19/15 alex best low budget film in aaaages 5 stars
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Directed by
  Kent Sobey

Written by
  Chris Hayward
  Nat Saunders

  Chris Hayward
  Nat Saunders
  Hannah Spear

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