Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Survival Skills Review: Wonderful Style and Irreverent Satirical Wit

Stacy Keach	...	The Narrator Vayu O'Donnell	Vayu O'Donnell	...	Jim Williams Spencer Garrett	Spencer Garrett	...	The Chief Ericka Kreutz	Ericka Kreutz	...	Allison Lohmann Tyra Colar	Tyra Colar	...	Jenny Emily Chisholm	Emily Chisholm	...	Leah Jenning Bradford Farwell	Bradford Farwell	...	Mark Jenning Madeline Anderson	Madeline Anderson	...	Lauren Jenning Alex Matthews	Alex Matthews	...	Howard R. Hamilton Wright	R. Hamilton Wright	...	Jim's Dad

Release date: December 4, 2020 (On Demand)
Running time: 88 minutes
Starring: Stacy Keach, Vayu O'Donnell, Spencer Garrett
Written and Directed By: Quinn Armstrong

Survival Skills is a lost training video from the 1980s. In it, Jim (O'Donnell), the perfect policeman, gets in over his head when he tries to resolve a domestic violence case outside the law.

Director: Quinn Armstrong Writer: Quinn Armstrong     Produced by  Michael Orion Downing	...	producer Colin West	...	producerMusic by  Mark Hadley	Cinematography by  Allie Schultz	Film Editing by  Keara Burton	Casting By  Jeremy Gordon	Production Design by  C. Leigh Goldsmith	Costume Design by  Rachel Kinnard
Survival Skills is set in a lost training video in which Jim goes about learning how to be a police officer.  It has a wonderful style that really evokes the VHS training video aspect of it.  The aspect ratio is 4:3, the film stutters and warps here and there, it is artificially low res, and the audio is a stereo audio.  It really commits to this style, going all in for the low res, old school form that feels perfectly suited for this.  And the style doesn't stop at just the visual and audio look of the film, the movie has cheesy, old style acting and writing throughout.  It definitely feels like a parody video from a different time, and the lessons and characters likewise feel like they were plucked from a completely different place.  And the whole thing has a really great dry wit that feels perfectly suited to this style and film.

However, despite Survival Skills having an overarching story about Jim and his experiences as a cop, it also often feels like a series of sketches that the viewer is watching one after the other. Situations are introduced that sometimes relate to what has happened, but often feel slightly random and disjointed.  It made me not appreciate the main story as much because I was distracted trying to find the thread between everything.  That being said, Survival Skills does have some interesting commentary on an ideal situation versus what actually happens in policing.  It feels like there is always the "training" way, and then the way things actually happen.  And when Jim tries to execute based on the learned method, it often has the opposite.  And the dry wit feels perfectly capable of pointing out this inconsistency and making you laugh while forcing you to think.  

Survival Skills has a wonderful commitment to the VHS style, with good characters and a fantastic, satirical wit and biting commentary throughout.

Rent it.

Satire Satirical Police Procedural Training Video Movie

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Survival Skills is available digitally and on demand December 4, 2020.

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