UNDER THE SKIN: FILM REVIEW
As the story of “Under the Skin” unfolds, it becomes clear that behind every character and every action there is an intense bleakness and emptiness. Even in the brief moments of connection in the story, the viewer gets the sense that something is deeply wrong. The film straddles the line between horror and sci-fi and forces you to think about how an extraterrestrial might see our human condition.
“Under the Skin” features Scarlet Johannsen as an alien from an unnamed world. She is also left without a name in the story, and the script only refers to her as “the female.” Over the course of the film, she drives around in a van picking up men, taking them back to her house, and consuming them. Once they walk into her house, they become engulfed in a pool of black liquid as their skin melts away and everything in them evaporates. Throughout this whole ordeal, it is unclear what the female herself thinks of leading these men to their death. At first, she seems cold and uncaring, but as the story goes on it becomes clear that she feels somewhat bad about her actions.
The way that she interreacts with the men she picks up changes throughout the story. At first, she has the attitude of a predator, simply preying on what is in front of her, carrying on the minimal amount of conversation required to get them to come back to her house. As she gets more used to the world, she begins to take a genuine interest in the lives of other people around her. Her conversations more often revolve around the wants and needs of others rather than from her desire to feed herself.
The plot of the story seems so simple at surface level, but, as the movie progresses it slips deeper and deeper into the abstract. While the van-centered pickups of men start off as simple encounters, the viewer sees the dark skeleton that undergirds the film when we get to peep into the female's house. It is a world of dark reflections that feels cold and completely unwelcoming. The house does not seem to have any walls, it opens to a plane of blackness. Johannsen’s calm, yet creepy, walk entices us to drown beneath the surface of her floor like the other men that she leads to their deaths.
The visuals in the film are also stunning. The color palette is extremely muted and boring until we get glimpses of the alien realm. In the female’s house, the deep blacks, paired with spots of bright – almost neon – light create an atmosphere of wonder for the viewer. Suddenly, all the character’s features become crystal clear and the viewer can see each detail and flaw on their body. The contrast that the film draws between the brightness of the human body and the pitch-black on Johannsen’s alien world is startling. Since the viewer watches “Under the Skin” from the woman’s perspective, even everyday activities, like two people speaking at a bar, become a disorienting mess. Every conversation seems a bit odd and predatory which adds to why “Under the Skin” keeps you feeling uncomfortable for the film’s entire run-time.
“Under the Skin” is a great way to give yourself a new experience and reset how you see the world. It makes every day human interaction seem a bit creepier. The ending is also a complete deviation from the rest of the film and will leave you sitting there in your seat wondering what you just watched.