Blu-ray Review “Under the Skin”

Starring: Scarlett Johansson
Director: Jonathan Glazer
Rated: R (Restricted)
Release Date: July 15, 2014
Run Time: 106 minutes

Film: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Scarlett Johansson playing a man-eating alien? Sounds good to me! “Under the Skin” is definitely one hell of a unique film. Most of it feels very unscripted, which is was, and feels like you are watching from a hidden camera, which you were. Scarlett Johansson is literally fantastic in the role, she is emotionless, erotic and just amazing. The film is so strange and different, so if you are expecting big special effects etc, look somewhere else. This has a very minimalist feel to it and is driven by an amazing (and extremely disturbing) score by Mica Levi. Plus Ms. Johansson strips down for the first time very artfully, which is not a bad sight but also at the same time a little strange. Watch it and you will know what I mean. Definitely not for everyone but I haven’t stopped thinking about this creepy little film.

Official Premise: A voluptuous woman of unknown origin (Johansson) combs the highways in search of isolated or forsaken men, luring a succession of lost souls into an otherworldly lair. They are seduced, stripped of their humanity, and never heard from again. Based on the novel by Michel Faber, Under the Skin examines human experience from the perspective of an unforgettable heroine who grows too comfortable in her borrowed skin, until she is abducted into humanity with devastating results.

Lionsgate is releasing this film as a combo pack with a Blu-ray + UltraViolet included. Like I mentioned above, the film has a very handheld look and feel to it, so the 1080p transfer varies. There are some shots though that are just stunning and look absolutely amazing. I especially loved the alternate dimension scene in the run down house, really well shot. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is also a real winner for this release. Mica Levi’s score is creepy as well and really sounds amazing. There is only one special feature called “Making of Under the Skin” but it is split up into multiple featurettes focusing on various aspects of the film. I would have loved to see a commentary track included to help explain various aspect deeper of this film.

Film Review “Under the Skin”

Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy McWilliams and Lynsey Taylor Mackay
Directed By: Jonathan Glazer
Rated: R
Running Time: 108 minutes
A24 Studios

Our Score: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Jonathan Glazer must have taken a course on Kubrick and fallen in love with his haunting style. That’s the only way I can describe the bizarre first couple of minutes of “Under the Skin” with its foreboding soundtrack and look straight out of “2001: A Space Odyssey”. Just like “2001”, it may take years for people to appreciate the visually eerie and unsettling feast that “Under the Skin” is. While it may seem like a simplistic tale of an alien luring men for nefarious reasons, there is a sense of fondness that slowly creeps in as the movie progresses.

The unnamed alien assumes the skin of an attractive female (Johannson). She drives across the murky land of Scotland in a full sized white van, constantly stopping to ask for directions to men walking on the street, hoping that maybe they’re heading the same way. That’s so she can offer a ride and seduce them into coming back to her place. From the outside, her “home” appears like any other shabby flat, but on the inside it’s a glassy room devoid of color. Pitch black liquid allowing us to only see the lioness and her victim, her articles of clothing slowly being peeled off while the man can’t get his off quick enough. She lures them across the vast emptiness while the nude men slowly sink into the floor and into their demise.

“Under the Skin” never touches upon the existential questions that surround our alien. Why is this thing here? What exactly does it do with the victims? While these are interesting questions, the movie focuses more on the alien living in the human skin. Suddenly our alien from another planet is fascinated by its skin, possibly absorbing the thoughts and feelings of the predecessor that lived and breathed in its flesh. Those stale eyes that stared blankly at everything earlier in the movie now show fear, concern and sympathy. She goes from stalking prey to looking in scared wonder at the human experience.

Our alien rarely talks and only shifts from sexual visual cues to facial twitches of emotions. Despite the vast amounts of graphic nudity, it never feels or looks sexual in nature. The vibes radiating around the alien or the victims appear to be predatorial. Even later in the movie, bare in front of a mirror, it appears to be entranced by the muscle and tissue it stretched over itself. Johannson’s abilities as an actress really shine here as she remains mute while conveying the inner workings of our creature. Oddly enough no one ever becomes suspicious during the 108 minutes that something might be off with this girl.

It’s a fascinating movie to watch because we never feel comfortable enough to relax throughout the first half and in the second half we’re constantly questioning along with this being. There’s a key turning point that I don’t want to give away and it’s definitely one of the more awkward, unsettling moments. What makes the scene so important is that we go from an unnerving first act to a curious second half. Plot points are told through scenes that constantly perturb the audience. Accompany that with the fact there’s little dialogue, it can be a very alienating film for general audiences. Don’t listen to any dissenters; this is definitely the most visually striking sci-fi movie of the year.