Under The Skin

June 17th, 2014 by Vomitron

Under The Skin   Under The Skin poster 81x120 thriller reviews sci fi reviews horror drama Director: Jonathan Glazer
Writers: Jonathan Glazer and Walter Campbell, based on the novel by Michel Faber
Release year: 2013

Almost human, yet far from.

A sexually attractive, irresistible woman roams the nightly deserted city streets and desolate countryside highways, picking up unsuspecting hitchhikers with her van. The ride they accept, will seal their fate. But for which purpose?

(spoilers may follow)Under The Skin   under the skin mirror day 300x168 thriller reviews sci fi reviews horror drama

How to describe ‘Under The Skin’ by referencing other films, isn’t the easiest thing to nail down. Essentially, Jonathan Glazer made a genre film. That fact alone, should pique any film lover’s interest. You may think of the early works of David Cronenberg, like some weird cinematic narrative vibe in which ‘Rabid’ meets the likes of ‘Stereo’. You may draw parallels with how a detached-from-reality Elijah Wood prowled the streets in his car in the recent ‘Maniac’. You may descend deeper in the obscure corridors of genre film history and dig up a British shlock-fest like Norman J. Warren‘s ‘Prey’. You may simply think up a more famous example of a sensual alien beauty sexually preying upon men, as in H.R. Giger‘s ‘Species’. You may even experience a flashback to another ravishing alien entity in the form of Mathilda May roaming the British country side, seducing an unsuspicious male local in Tobe Hooper‘s ‘Lifeforce’. Or well, as the promo-blurbs eagerly state, you can even throw a little Stanley Kubrick reference in there – can’t really think of anything else than that they were trying to link it to ’2001: A Space Odyssey’; in vain, I might add. But no matter how you might bend or twist your matters of opinion: ‘Under The Skin’ has virtually nothing to do with all the aforementioned directors and films.

Under The Skin   under the skin fur coat 300x168 thriller reviews sci fi reviews horror drama

The end result is a film that couldn’t be further removed from popular cinema if it tried. It’s the kind of film that does the exact opposite of trying to please a mainstream audience. So, the question remains: will such an audience be able to embrace it? The only ace ‘Under The Skin’ has up its sleeve to pull it off, is the star power of Scarlett Johansson. In a similar way as Elijah Wood signing up for a project like the ‘Maniac’ remake, great kudos has to be given to Miss Johanssen for doing ‘Under The Skin’. Then again, one of her many talents has always been the ability to sensibly and intelligently choose her projects, balancing out her filmography so far with a steady mix of independent artistic films and Hollywood blockbusters. And make no mistake: even though not given much dialogue to chew on and depicting a female alien character virtually devoid of emotions, her role in ‘Under The Skin’ was a demanding one. And quite possibly the most daring one from her complete oeuvre so far.

Under The Skin   under the skin house 300x168 thriller reviews sci fi reviews horror drama

‘Under The Skin’, for a multitude of reasons, is an aptly chosen title for this endeavorment. First off, the film itself is of a nature that does exactly that: it gets under your skin. As a viewer, you undergo this bizarre experience and when the ride is over, you have no other choice than to wait and let it all seep in, before you can start judging it on its own terms. Secondly, quite literally, it hints at what is underneath the Woman’s skin. While appearing human on the outside, she’s anything but. This regards to her inner workings on a psychological/emotional level, but also the visceral, her biology. And thirdly, the common notion of beauty being only skin deep comes to mind. Now take into consideration that we’re only talking about the film’s title here.

Under The Skin   under the skin girls 300x168 thriller reviews sci fi reviews horror drama

As for the story, it’s deeply intriguing and profound. Yet a lot is – with subtle not being the right word – left unspoken. Often images speak louder than words, and Glazer has found a way to both hit hard and confuse with his visual language. Take for instance the scene that takes place at the beach. You will have to see for yourself how the drama regarding the subsidiary characters unfolds (it involves a swimming dog), including how the Woman observes the situation and what she ultimately decides to do. After playing out that scene, Glazer cuts back to the baby crying at the rocky beach. That hits harder than anything you’ve seen happening prior in that sequence. On the other hand, Glazer handles otherworldly visuals early on throughout the film, both sober in tone and stylized in form, that will have you both amazed and confused, yet most of it will tie in with something later in the film, in a way you least expect it to. And naturally, most of it revolves around the Woman’s persona.

Under The Skin   under the skin woman black 300x168 thriller reviews sci fi reviews horror drama

Again referring to the film’s title, there’s an arc to Johansson‘s character that can’t be perceived from the outside, but there’s a certain point where she’s undergoing both psychological and emotional changes on the inside. And strangely enough – keep in mind we’re talking about a ruthless alien predator here – that’s the point in the film where you come to find yourself rooting for her. As if she suddenly becomes aware of what she’s doing, learns how to think independently, opens up and starts discovering previously unfelt sensations and ultimately starts making efforts towards understanding. To comprehend life, us humans and perhaps this planet, on which she was initially and purposely put as an antagonist entity with malevolent intent, driven by consumptive impulses. And once you start considering, as a viewer, to invest in the Woman, as a protagonist with her new-insights-soon-to-be-found, Glazer has other things in store for us. And you can rest assured, they will hit hard, once more.

Under The Skin   under the skin road 300x168 thriller reviews sci fi reviews horror drama

‘Under The Skin’ was based on the similarly titled book by Michael Faber, but is eventually only a loose adaptation, turning the film into a different, more grim, serious and less defined beast altogether. With regards to Johansson‘s character, the book keeps her alien identity a secret for quite some time. The film might also keep you guessing for a while about what exactly is going on, however, Glazer found a couple of highly original ways to establish early on that not only the Woman is not from this planet, but also hinting at the fact that there’s more going on than just her driving around in a van to pick up hitchhikers. And, well, people who might complain that they’ve just seen nothing more than a tedious film about Scarlett Johansson seducing men all the time… needless to say they have been watching the wrong film. It’s a slow burner, yes. But it’s a creeping chiller nonetheless. The plot moves around in circles, yes. But not endlessly.

Under The Skin   under the skin woods 300x168 thriller reviews sci fi reviews horror drama

There’s a hidden essence present too. It’s hard to pinpoint at first, but it’ll reveal itself when you reflect on the film’s ending. Take any organism and inject it into an alien body – in this case, our earth is the alien environment – and it’s got two choices: adapt and integrate or become overtaken and perish. And this is what happens: against all odds, the alien organism develops an emotional awareness towards her surroundings. We see the changes, the lack of understanding, the willingness to explore and accept. This is the point where Glazer‘s script turns the tables on us. To put it plain and simple: we start sympathizing with her character, because she’s becoming more human, in a way. By that point, we pretty much have forgotten about the predator she started out as. And just when you want her to go on and discover this life, this planet of ours… human nature turns the tables on her. The harsh ending leaves us with an emotional hangover, pretty much feeling confused just like the character was prior to her demise. You will ask why this had to happen. But at the same time you also understand why it did. She opens up, unaware that an act like this increases her vulnerability. And we ultimately behold that, despite her final volition to experience human life, she never had a chance to begin with. Us humans made sure of that, and if not, inevitably even her own kind would have.


Rating: Under The Skin   star thriller reviews sci fi reviews horror drama Under The Skin   star thriller reviews sci fi reviews horror drama Under The Skin   star thriller reviews sci fi reviews horror drama Under The Skin   star thriller reviews sci fi reviews horror drama Under The Skin   halfstar thriller reviews sci fi reviews horror drama

 

Trailer on YouTube.

 

Under The Skin   Under The Skin poster 02 201x300 thriller reviews sci fi reviews horror drama



Bookmark / Share:
  • Under The Skin   facebook thriller reviews sci fi reviews horror drama
  • Under The Skin   stumbleupon thriller reviews sci fi reviews horror drama
  • Under The Skin   digg thriller reviews sci fi reviews horror drama
  • Under The Skin   reddit thriller reviews sci fi reviews horror drama
  • Under The Skin   twitter thriller reviews sci fi reviews horror drama
  • Under The Skin   myspace thriller reviews sci fi reviews horror drama
  • Under The Skin   delicious thriller reviews sci fi reviews horror drama
  • Under The Skin   linkedin thriller reviews sci fi reviews horror drama
  • Under The Skin   mixx thriller reviews sci fi reviews horror drama
  • Under The Skin   netvibes thriller reviews sci fi reviews horror drama
  • Under The Skin   tumblr thriller reviews sci fi reviews horror drama
  • Under The Skin   printfriendly thriller reviews sci fi reviews horror drama