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[Movie] Under the Skin

7dcMy reaction to Under the Skin, summed up by well known philosopher, critic, and Hero of Canton, Jayne Cobb.

Because I am an adult and make excellent life choices, I decided to see this movie at 2230 on Sunday, even knowing that it would mean getting less than five hours of sleep before work on Monday. Because I’d heard wonderful things about it, and I have yet to see something that involves Scarlet Johansson that I haven’t loved to pieces. And the concept behind the movie also sounded so interesting–psychological thriller about an alien stalking Glasgow and doing terrible things to unsuspecting human men until she discovers some inner well of humanity? Sign me up.

I have no idea now, why people are calling this movie a psychological thriller as opposed to horror. I’m guessing because (at least in America) it’s not horror if it doesn’t involve jump scares and copious amounts of blood. Well, I don’t watch a lot of horror movies because I don’t really like either of those things all that much. But they also don’t really tend to leave me feeling fucked up for hours and days afterward. I claim Under the Skin is horror because it managed to fill me with existential dread for well over a day and kept me from sleeping. The last movie that did that? Kairo. The original Japanese horror movie, not that shitty American…whatever it was.

There is nothing about this movie that wasn’t fundamentally disturbing. Scarlet Johansson spends a lot of time staring at the world with dead eyes…except when she’s attempting to lure a hapless (and completely lonely) man to her exceptionally creepy and very water-damaged house. I can’t tell you precisely what happens to the men because it’s never explicitly stated, but it starts out with naked, boner-sporting fellows sinking down into a bottomless pool that the alien simply walks across like it’s solid, continues on to them being sucked out of their goddamn skins so literally there is an empty fucking skin floating in the water, and ends with what sure does look like ground meat and bonemeal slurry going down a chute.

The dialog is minimal, which only leads to the feeling of complete unease. The score is not going to win any prizes for beauty, but it does what it’s supposed to do with efficiency, which is make the audience feel intensely unsettled at every possible moment. The score was composed mostly of sustained chords, which were incredibly discordant and became less so as the alien experiences her shift in personality. The movie takes its time with long scenes, not terribly unlike the alien walking slowly backwards as she lures men into the dark room where they’ll ultimately get turned inside-out for the the crime of just really wanting to fuck a pretty woman. (A pretty woman, I’ll note, doing one of the least sexy strip teases that has ever been put to film.) It’s long, and drawn out, and at times you want to beg it to have mercy and just. Fucking. Stop.

But it is, by the way, fucking gorgeous. Large portions of this movie could easily act as a tourism advertisement for Scotland; forests and shorelines and the countryside all have their moments to shine. Except for the bit where the take home message seems to be: Come to Scotland, it’s a magical place where you might be picked up by a woman in a molester van and then get liquified after 24 hours of terrifying captivity on a bottomless swimming pool.

One thing I found interesting was the amount of nudity in this movie, which surprised me considering the R-rating. Full frontal nudity of both the male and female variety, and much of the male variety involved erections. But I think it’s because I’m used to an R-rating meaning lots of violence. That’s the American way, right? And there is really very little actual violence in this movie, for all it involves men getting sucked out of their own skins. There’s one really horrible scene at the end–an attempted rape that leads to something even more awful–and the rest of it is disquietingly non-violent and unsexy both. This movie refuses to offer you relief from the horror of what is happening by making it titillating in the slightest.

Continue on if you don’t mind spoilers:

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Originally published at Rachael Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Feb. 23rd, 2015 05:04 am (UTC)
Good review. I'll check out this movie.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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