Sunday, July 13, 2014
Video review: "Under the Skin"
I liked "Under the Skin," but you may not.
This off-kilter sci-fi/horror starring Scarlett Johansson is a deliberate head-scratcher. It's not the sort of movie that declares itself to you and shows you everything about itself. Rather, it exists in the shadows, giving us glimpses and hints of meaning, and leaving it to the audience to assemble a complete picture in our heads.
I suspect that many people will find it maddening, but it never failed to keep me engaged and fascinated.
Co-written and directed by Jonathan Glazer, who also made the wonderful "Sexy Beast," "Under the Skin" doesn't have a whole lot of plot. A strange, unnamed woman (Johansson) trolls around Scotland in a van, luring men to their demise. She doesn't just stab or shoot them; she uses her body as bait to trick them into immersing themselves in a pool of inky black goo.
Is the liquid real or imagined? What exactly happens to the men's bodies? Is the woman an alien, a demon or something else entirely? Who is the strange motorcycle rider who follows her about, first as her facilitator and later as her huntsman?
At first she is a completely heartless killer, she gradually becomes more emotionally attuned to the humans she's preying upon. An encounter with fellow with a severe facial disfigurement seems to change something in her, and her disguise begins to slip more and more.
(I should mention that almost all the men Johansson encounters are portrayed by non-actors, which give their encounters an added sense of serendipity and authenticity.)
"Under the Skin" eschews easy answers, but its charms lie in keeping us absorbed by its dark puzzle.
Video extras are rather disappointing, confined to a single featurette, a making-of documentary that touches on various aspects of production.