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Skinheads: The Second Coming of Hate Reviews

In this low-grade exploitation flick, pesky neo-Nazis shatter the peace and quiet of Nevada. Sadly, one almost pities the scruffy skinheads on display here, since even the worst racist scum deserves better than this rabble-rousing indictment. Brought to us by Greydon Clark, the creator of the immortal SATAN'S CHEERLEADERS (which exposed the then-prevalent scourge of demonic possession among half-time entertainers at high-school sporting events), SKINHEADS is bad enough to discourage any interest in white supremacy groups. Maybe it will do some public service after all. After beating up the Jewish proprietors of a convenience store and rumbling with a gang of African-American street toughs, the shaved-head crowd takes to the open road with mischief on their minds. Prior to departure, they adopt Randy (James A. Stunden), a naive young man who's just been fired and is easy prey for their crazed theories about the survival of the white-est. Rude and rowdy, the gang--which, in addition to Randy, includes vicious leader Damon (Brian Brophy), mean-tempered alcoholic Frank (Gene Mitchell), chicken-hearted Jeff (Bill Kohne), token main squeeze Liz (Lynna Hopwood), and two brain-damaged hulks, Brains and Walt (Dennis Ott and Frank Noon)--takes off on a terror spree. When rugged outdoorsman Huston (Chuck Connors) bids goodbye to his restaurateur girl friend, Martha (Barbara Bain), he doesn't realize his cozy cabin-in-the-woods existence will be shattered forever by the gang's rampage. Invading Martha's diner, the outlaw bigots knock out Berkeley student Jeff (Jason Culp), molest and kill coed Carla (Cynthia Cheston), murder Jeff's pals (Duane Davis and Clark Corkum), and make the big mistake of rubbing out Martha, too. When Jeff revives and rescues his sole fellow survivor, Amy (Elizabeth Sagal), the chase is on. Reminding them that they must eliminate any witnesses to their rampage, Damon vetoes the gang's plan to split to Mexico. As the film becomes a standard escape-and-pursuit picture, the collegiate good guys collapse in Huston's cabin after a near-miss with the skinheads. Entering his domain only to be informed by Jeff and Amy that Hitler enthusiasts are stinking up his weeds, Huston recalls WW II and prepares for battle. The skinheads intercept our trio with a roadblock and badly wound Huston (who later retaliates by snuffing out Walt), then, using the crybaby skinhead (also named Jeff) as a shield, the ersatz stormtroopers lay siege to the cabin, resulting in a stand-off. When Randy annoys him by weakening in his resolve, Damon murders his new disciple, and also finishes off Huston. Jeff and Amy--after setting off a small gunpowder explosion and after the Berkeley student's neo-Nazi namesake gets caught in an animal trap--flee into the woods. Not considered gung-ho enough, skinhead Jeff is nailed to the cabin's exterior, where he becomes a grizzly bear's dinner; meanwhile, good-guy Jeff manages to choke Frank to death and throw a rattlesnake on Brains. Unfortunately, Damon rapes Amy in the meantime, much to gang moll Liz's chagrin. After lunatic Damon further decimates the skinhead population by murdering Liz, he tries to run down Amy and Jeff on the road. As Jeff and Damon fight to the death, Amy grabs a gun and pumps the budding Hitler full of lead. Certainly, a coherent thriller could be made out of the frightening premise of neo-Naziism's popularity in America's heartland. Instead, filmmakers have pounced on this provocative material in the tawdriest tabloid manner possible. From Costa-Gavras' BETRAYED to cable TV's "Into the Homeland" to SKINHEADS, each blast at white supremacists has further trivialized important issues. SKINHEADS treats racists as garden-variety comic-book villains; its biker riffraff are cut from the same cloth as misguided punks from 50s juvenile-delinquent movies, leaving the particular nature of their insidiousness unexplored. Moreover, SKINHEADS fails to deliver the visceral goods even as exploitation filmmaking. There's no sense of danger and no building of suspense; every naughty Nazi incident is telegraphed in advance, and most of the film consists of padded-out hide-and-seek escapades in the woods. Through these noticeably sluggish proceedings, the cast stumbles around in a daze. As the lone survivors of the diner massacre, Sagal and Culp seem more concerned about the protocol of sharing a sleeping bag than being wracked with grief over the loss of their friends or fearful for their own lives. Veterans Bain and Connors sleepwalk through their roles, while Mitchell overacts to the nth degree, as if trying to give off enough energy for a cast of 12 in his single performance. With no socially redeeming substance, weak in characterization, short on plot logic, and amazingly low on energy, SKINHEADS is a poorly structured newspaper-headline horror movie. Lacking sufficient punch to interest even those action buffs who might overlook meaninglessness and incoherence if enough cheap thrills were provided, the lethargic SKINHEADS fails on every level. (Violence, nudity, adult situations, sexual situations, profanity.)