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31 Days of Horror: UNDER THE SKIN

A strange being from another world wearing the skin of Scarlet Johannson travels around modern-day Scotland in an anonymous white transit van, collecting lonely men and taking them to a strange ethereal world, where they seem to be harvested for some nefarious purpose. Probably to make McDonald’s chicken nuggets. Along the way, she starts to change.

Pros

  • An ethereal, haunting film.
  • Beautifully shot with an obtuse narrative.
  • A body horror flick without gratuitous gore.
  • It truly gets under the skin. Sorry.

Cons

  • At times, it’s just a little too artistic for its own good.
  • It can be hard to follow. It takes leaps of logic and plot that require concentrated viewing to keep abreast of.
  • It’s slower than a chilled lake of treacle.
  • You just might need subtitles for the Scottish men of the cast.

Overall

Under The Skin is the latest flick from infrequent film maker Jonathan Glazer. He’s a man who’s only made three feature lengths in his career, spread out over the last 15 years. His latest foray into features is about a featureless alien wearing the skin of a Hollywood starlet, and doesn’t really fit with either of his previous efforts.

It has the same beautiful direction you’d expect from a man who is behind some of the most beautiful and bizarre music videos and commercials to ever grace your telly box. But beauty is only skin deep, and we spend a great deal of the running time beneath the skin. This is a strange, low-fi film set in the bleakest parts of Scotland, offering us an outsider (as in, outside of this galaxy) look at the night life circus of screaming hens and leering guys. It re imagines the male as a target of abduction and murder, and it also shows a realistic level of gullibility from the average horny man. A beautiful woman in a beat up transit van wants to take me to an abandoned house for no strings sex? Sure! 

A great deal is left to the imagination here, and it deviates wildly from the novel of the same name by Michel Faber. The results are a minimalist film which moves at a snail’s pace sometimes, with a few key scenes of few horror – with very little gore – prompting scares beyond a jump and a scream. Under The Skin is bleak and beautiful all at once and it is as terrifying as it is inscrutable. Scenes come and go without anything happening at all, and it all seems to go in circles, with each abduction revealing just a little more about the horrors subjected within the otherworldly, blank space of the homes and flats that our space dwelling seductress takes us into.

Glazer’s latest film doesn’t care whether you like it or not. It’ll stay with you long after the end credits have rolled with a feeling of creeping dread that will have settled deep within the pit of your stomach. The film’s closing image is permanently burned into my brain, and it’ll come to me, unbidden at night, forcing me to reach for the lamp. If you’re looking a slow burning, spiritual scare, watch this. Just be prepared to sit down and give it your full attention, and don’t watch it with anyone who thought that Let The Right One In was “Too Arty”.

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Categories: Movie Reviews

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