July 28, 2014

Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer, 2014
Set in Scotland, a shape-shifting alien creature is secretly killing young men in an effort to feed a mysterious source. Soon the carefully maintained routine is disrupted when the seductress begins to gain an awareness, suddenly seeing the human race as something more than just lustful meat.

Under the Skin has a lingering quality to it, a quality existent in Glazer's past film Sexy Beast. But while Sexy Beast was simply rooted in great performances, this picture's lingering qualities are more obvious, more impacting, more elaborate. More intriguing. Glazer's cold black predatory piece plays out like a David Lynch created hybrid of Stephen King's Sleepwalkers and M. Night Shyamalan's Signs. The chilling score is noticeable from the get-go as the hum and the heartbeat manipulates your senses. Some of the images dance slowly across the screen, never slowing down to a bore.

Scarlett Johansson's femme fatale creature is calculating, tactical. She's precise in her pursuit. If there is any compromising moment in the hunt, she scraps the moment and moves on to the next attempt. Using sex as bait on young men is just too effective. When you see a black wigged, made-up Scarlett how can you not get into a van with her? The fact that these scenes were filmed using hidden cameras on oblivious walker-bys without making that segment of the film gimmicky only adds to Glazer's skilled film-making abilities. It's a film that almost demands to be re-watched, as you are likely to find little marks here and there that you may have missed. It's the long-awaited true Cinephile's alien movie. And although the film gets lost a little bit in it's own abstraction as the female creature begins to empathize with the human race, the memorable imagery never slips between the cracks. When the two humans are submerged and the one sees the other get "processed", how are you to ever erase that from your brain? There is an artful brutality to this picture that Nicholas Winding Refn only wishes he could have achieved in Only God Forgives. So many aspects that will stick with you for days, months maybe. Mica Levi's score is so much like the background noise we heard in The Master or There Will be Blood, but it's so brilliantly embedded in the fabric of the film that hearing anything remotely resembling the sounds after will trigger your memories and have you looking behind your back for a Dodge Sprinter as you walk down an empty street. As the cold temptress creeps through the Scottish city, Glazer forces you to look at your own race through a different set of eyes. You sympathize with the poor young men that are so unfortunate to fall victim to their own libido. But you soon find yourself sympathizing with the very creature that so mercilessly takes them from the world. Another testament to Glazer's pure brilliance with making this film. Under the Skin is a hypnotic art piece. So cleverly disturbing without being pure gore, and unnerving without using any horror cliches.

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