A sexy, cold and single minded alien predator (Scarlett Johansson) preys on horny dudes to feed, that’s until she gets in touch with her human nature and is taken for a loop the loop.
UNDER THE SKIN
was a movie that went out of its way to elude me in terms of me getting to see it. I was out of town when it came out limited (i.e. one week) in theatres and I couldn't get my paws on a screener. The fact that I was having such a hard time pinning the thing down and teaching it lessons made me want to see it more. Well I finally got to catch it by way of its Blu-Ray and DVD release (it comes out on July 15, yes today)
and I gotta say it, it was well worth the wait.
UNDER THE SKIN was definitely not a film for everybody. If slow crawl and aloof as f*ck is not your thing, then avoid this one like an STD ridden tramp. Thankfully for me, I sometimes can get into these “types of movies”. For me, watching UNDER THE SKIN was akin to clocking a soothing, sexy, down beat and macabre relaxation video. That's the vibe I got from it - I just sat back and enjoyed the audio/visual feast while trying to decipher it. Based on Michel Faber’s 2001 novel of the same name, this bad girl was basically the art-house version of SPECIES. I hear that the book is more mainstream than the film and gives up ample details as to our out of this world seductress but director Jonathan Glazer’s take on the material was in full-on “let the audience figure it out” mode. Although some may find that approach frustrating, I found it to be entrancing. I so got off on the tone here, it was haunting and morose. The film's M.O. was showing our world through the alien’s eyes; an unbiased look, one without judgment and that made for all kinds of striking imagery. Glazer ideally captured the exterior Scotland locations and the busy city streets too. And I loved his use of wide shots and long takes. They hit home.
Even the sci-fi elements were communicated in an unorthodox and trippy like fashion. At times I wasn’t sure as to what the f*ck I was seeing, but I eventually figured it all out. Lets just say the manner in which our alien siren devoured her prey was unique to say the least. Speaking of our alien man-killer, huge props to Scarlett Johansson for taking a chance on a role like this. Not only did it require a fair amount of nudity (and hey I wasn’t complaining, finally a curvy Hollywood starlet, a real woman, not a coked up rake with tits, how refreshing) but the role was axed on the physical/internal for the most part. Body language, facial expressions and eye movements were key in terms of this showcase. The way she played a heartless predator was chilling (loved that Brit accent) and when she started to “feel” the lass nailed that too. It was odd. Cause she was the villain of the piece and then bang, out of the blue, I was feeling for her. Well played! Word has it that many of the encounters her character had in the film were improvised via having Scarlett, in her black wig, picking up real dudes with hidden cameras in the van filming the whole thing. Eventually the horny gents were let in on the fact they were in a movie and would shoot the necessary remaining scenes. If I go by what I saw onscreen, that improvisational method worked wonders for the whole! It lent an air of raw authenticity to said sequences hence having them hit harder.
As per every art film, this one also came with a “message” with the theme of appearances versus what lies beneath being in the forefront. I also picked up on a deep reflection as to what makes us human, the good and the bad, all presented in artsy fartsy glory. Yup, philosophical was the word! Tag to all that dread filled cinematography by Daniel Landin, warped and hypnotic imagery galore, some tension, a bold knack at embracing the ugly (that beach scene, all I'll say...brrr), a gripping subplot having to do with a mysterious motorcycle dude (I finally figured out what he was all about), an eerie score by Mica Levi and an ending that knocked me out and you get one hell of a horror, sci-fi, art film, one that will bore some, but hey, that did just the trick for me. All that matters in my little bubble of a world.
If I had one complaint: I wish the flick would had put more emphasis on the lead alien’s “inner changes”. The possibilities to really go deep and pummel me emotionally were there, but the film pretty much glazed over them, the same way it glazed over everything else. NOTE: The motorcycle dude subplot could have gone further too but that’s the mainstream part of my mind talking. On the whole UNDER THE SKIN was a riveting experimental celluloid piece that will either reel you in or have you take a cat nap! It can either way. So you gonna get between the sheets with this wild-cat or what?
Nothing really. There was some disturbing imagery though.
Scarlett Johansson gives us the full package. And I mean the FULL package. What a beautiful woman. DAMN! Gals and straight dudes get a bag of dicks.
Now that I think of it, UNDER THE SKIN's basic storyline was a simple one but it went about communicating its tale in such a vague, symbolic and poetic fashion that it came off as novel. Armed with gorgeous photography, a brave, menacing, moving and sensual performance by Scarlett Johansson, a knack at not shying away from out of line scenarios while making a comment on the human condition; UNDER THE SKIN was something else! Yes, I felt it would have been stronger if it had gone deeper into our anti-heroine’s inner changes, but that’s just me. This is a movie that I will tap again, I am sure I will get even more from it on a second round. I can’t stress this enough though: you don’t dig films that are slow, vaguer than a cheating lover and one that humps the “art” pillow with all its got – skip it and re-watch SPECIES instead. Everybody else though... ENJOY!
The creepy alien motorcyle dude was played by former Irish bike racer Jeremy McWilliams
Gemma Arterton, Eva Green, Megan Fox, January Jones, Abbie Cornish, Olivia Wilde, Amanda Seyfried, Blake Lively and Jessica Biel were all considered to play the alien dame role.
Adam Pearson suffers from neurofibromatosis. This was his first acting role. Good job man!