Saturday, March 9, 2024

Keep It Closed: Skeletons in the Closet (2024) Review

Director: Asif Akbar

Notable Cast: Terrence Howard, Valery M. Ortiz, Cuba Gooding Jr, Udo Kier, Appy Pratt, Louis Mandylor, Michelle Jubilee Gonzalez, Clifton Powell, Ariana Deppe, Michelle Wang, Sally Kirkland


Niche entertainment services will always have content that wouldn’t make it anywhere else. Hallmark often weaves a tale of the city girl who finds herself (and a new love interest) in a small town, usually with a dog and hot chocolate, and she will inevitably fall into every predictable trap on her way to rediscovering her traditional values. Crunchyroll has some anime that might make even the most seasoned anime lover roll their eyes, and the NBA has the modern slam dunk contest. All these specialty services offer audiences the opportunity to find hidden gems, a pursuit that sometimes pans out and sometimes not.

Shudder is no different, except that the horror community is particularly divisive, potentially even more than diehard NBA fans, which makes finding gold a subjective and challenging task. I wish I could say that I was writing today about a story of finding gold, but alas, I am not. Skeletons in the Closet has every signature failing of a Hallmark movie but as a horror feature. Let me say that I REALLY wanted to like this. I tried very hard to give it time, if only for its star-laden cast, but it never materialized into anything worth watching.

The perpetually grieved Valery Ortiz (Gabby Duran & The Unsittables) delivers a performance that is as subtle and nuanced as sour milk. This is my first time watching her perform, and perhaps horror isn’t her genre, as the look of horror at seeing a demon shouldn’t look anywhere near the expression you might wear if you found a stapler in the toilet. This was her first leading role in a horror film, and perhaps she’ll have better luck with a different script later in her career.

The balance of the cast was charming and genuine, with Terrance Howard (Hustle & Flow) and Cuba Gooding Jr. (Jerry Maguire) delivering gleams of artistry in an otherwise difficult environment. How they ended up in this picture is a story I’d prefer to watch. Udo Kier (Hunters) and Sally Kirkland (The Sting) deliver a few creepy moments, while Clifton Powell (Ray) and Appy Pratt (The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window) offer moments of catharsis and innocence, but the entire cast feels disjointed in a muddied performance.

Ultimately, the cast couldn’t overcome the challenge set by a confusing script. Watching this feels as though it was a rough draft that still needed to be fleshed out or a potentially promising start for a Jr. High Honors English student. Forgoing continuity of themes is a bold choice that can make an audience feel unsettled, just not in the way that horror writers would hope. Al Bravo (The Commando), Joshua Cohen (Black Warrant), and Terrance Howard (same as leading man) may have written three stories from a common prompt of “death lady ghost trauma” and submitted them to an editor to somehow make them all work together.

Perhaps that’s what director Asif Akbar (Clown Motel) did. With an odd cinematographic blend of TV Movie meets soap opera meets insurance infomercial, the visual storytelling left much to be desired. Instead of embracing the creativity needed for low-budget scares, we were left with Snapchat filter fires and jerky stop-motion scarecrows, both of which are only loosely related.

When panning for gold on your niche services, leave this one in the stream.

Written By Alex Gerrish


  1. That is excellent! I don’t think any film tries to be mediocre… But in this case it’s a success.

  2. This is Left Coast Grandpa BTW.