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  • Writer's pictureMartyn Wakefield


Dir. Jonathan Glazer

Reviewer. Martyn Wakefield

Opening up in an unsettling transformation from alien to human, Jonathan Glazers sci-fi chiller is just that… Unsettling, from start to finish and will certainly get under your skin. As an alien seductress arrives on earth and takes the bodily form of Scarlett Johansen she sets about accustoming to human life in Scotland. Sounds like the idea written on the back of a napkin by a group of drunken adolescents but in fact much like the transformer that Johansson plays, Glazer packs in more than meets the eye. What UNDER THE SKIN hides in plot, it makes up for in its character and wizardry at the helm of Glazer. Playing more of a psychology of humanity and isolation than a thriller of sorts, this is a true psychological nightmare that blends ERASERHEAD and SPECIES while retaining enough originality to hold Glazer as a director to watch out for. As “She” travels the wilderness of Scotland investigating the strange environment and relationships between sexes, her urges lead her to lure men to an untimely death which is quite possibly the strangest death sequence in cinema history. It is not until the second victim feels the fate he will receive that the true horror of the third kind can inflict. Tremendously horrific accompanied by Johansson’s satisfyingly calm reaction only adds to the nightmare. As she begins to adjust to human emotion and the way of mating, her hold on others soon fades and leads to a shocking finale that not only unearths what is really under the skin but how releasing her emotions mitigate the power she once had.

It’s strange to put UNDER THE SKIN into words, or even explain what the film is about without discussing in a deep and powerful conversation about emotion and isolation yet somehow Glazer has managed to put this into a film under Hollywood’s conventional 3 hour running time and modestly transpires across the Scottish landscape using real people and reactions from hidden cameras mixed with the powerful presence of Johansson performance that shows she is much more than a superhero in a cat suit. However, it’s not only her adjustment to humanity that the focus of the story is on. The darkness of man and contrast between heroes and villains that contrast two scenes in the film the polar opposites of mankind and in addition the alien forces and high speed motorcycle chases that cover Johansson’s mercy so viciously. Mashed from high gloss extra-terrestrial world to the gritty hidden cameras across Scotland, it’s no surprise that this is truly a master class of cinema that is much more than what is played before your eyes. It is guaranteed to be the marmite of the genre and certainly will need to be discussed to understand it better but that is the joy of cinema. Those expecting a slice of SPECIES with Scarlett Johansson can look away now, most of the nudity comes from the males and every scene with her is wrapped in Primark clothing or tastefully undressed for the 15 age rating. From its unsettling opening to the shocking conclusion, there is nothing to instantly love about this. Even a scene where Johansson is merely a watcher of events the action unravelling in front of her is harrowing and yet her emotion is vacant while still holding a powerful presence and that's exactly what this masterpiece is... a powerful presence.

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