Tuesday, April 29, 2014

UNDER THE SKIN (2013) movie review

Under the Skin (2013) d. Jonathan Glazer (UK)

With buzz growing since its UK release, this screen adaptation of Michael Faber’s novel arrived fully onto my radar via the announcement that it would be gracing the cover of Fangoria magazine’s May issue #332. Now, granted, editor-in-chief Chris Alexander has made some odd choices during his four-year tenure (Nicholas Cage? Gene Simmons?), but knowing that this was “Fango-approved” definitely heightened my interest. However, it also provoked expectations, which can be the enemy of many a filmgoing experience.

Even though its plotline is fundamentally similar to that of 1995’s Species (gorgeous alien female life form seeks to mate with/devour human males), and even though the visual effects are stunning and the body count appreciable, Under the Skin’s deliberate pacing, its somber, almost mournful tone, and the fiercely non-traditional storytelling couldn’t be further from B-movie schlockdom.

Nothing against Fango’s target audience (I’m one, after all), but I imagine that the majority of gorehounds are bound to be nonplussed at the repetitive scenes of Scarlett Johansson driving around endlessly in her van, attempting to locate the right kind of male victim.

Yes, there is quite the selection process – scenes that were apparently captured via hidden camera with the comely actress approaching anonymous Scottish lads and striking up conversation as they walked along the street – and when we finally get down to the “attack” scenes, Glazer (Sexy Beast, which I loved; Birth, which I hated) handles them with such nonviolent grace and hypnotic imagery, viewers are left with a sense of rapturous wonder as opposed to cheap, splattery thrills. (However, for Marvel fanboys who’ve been aching for an up-close, unhurried, widescreen look at Black Widow in the altogether, your wishes are granted on numerous occasions, with more-than-ample samplings of the hairier sex as well. )

Harnessing kindred filmmaking spirits Stanley Kubrick, Nicolas Roeg, and David Lynch, the results are confounding, spellbinding, frustrating, haunting, and even inspiring, with Johansson captivating in her every onscreen moment. But be advised: this winding, steep-grade country road occasionally goes in circles; without willingly consenting to go along for the ride, this could be the longest trip you’ve ever been on.


  1. Saw it last night. Loved it. But you know how I roll. Darren Callahan

    1. Yep, I can see this being your slice o' pie. I'd definitely see it again.

  2. i saw this and Enemy on back to back nights, LOVED them both.

    1. Enemy is such a great little mind trip.

      This one didn't initially blow me away, but it stayed with me and stayed with me and I couldn't stop thinking about it. That, to me, is the true sign of greatness, when something hooks in you. The second time I watched it, knowing what I was in for, it was a lot easier to appreciate. I think my expectations were different for my first viewing, which is why I found myself growing a little impatient with the pace and the meandering quality. But even then, I was happy to recommend it and put it on my "best of" list for the year, so there you go.