Under The Skin Review

Posted 10 years ago by myetvmedia

Under The Skin is a very strange film. It makes no sense. It is a sci-fi, horror film with graphic scenes of nudity and rape about an alien (Scarlett Johansson) who lands in Scotland. Much of the dialogue is incomprehensible and ultimately the storyline falls into this category as well. There were two immediate reactions to the movie within the first ten minutes of the opening scenes, love it or hate it. Director/co-writer Jonathan Glazier, who joined forces with screenwriter Walter Campbell, based the story on a novel by Michel Faber. The novel seems to have a very clear storyline missed in the screen adaptation. Glazier insisted at the 70th Venice International Film Festival Press Conference, that this was not an experimental film. The critics beg to differ. Many parts of the movie are just odd and cinematic effects such as those used in the opening sequences don’t work. It takes so long to establish the storyline that many viewers simply gave up and left the theater at both the Venice and TIFF premiers. For those who stayed the movie did not really pick up until almost the end (spoiler alert) when the alien actually revealed herself as an alien. But she was immediately set on fire, turned to charcoal and unfortunately,  we were so baffled by this point in the movie, we didn’t care. And that was it, a bit anticlimactic. The ‘Scarlett Johansson character’ was deliberately created to be two-dimensional according to Glazier, which made the character very difficult to relate to. The victims, played by untrained, unsuspecting Scottish citizens were amazingly convincing in their limited roles. Their cooperation was outstanding.


Scarlett Johansson deserves credit for her role as the seductress who leads unsuspecting men to their death; a storyline borrowed from the tales of Odysseus, with apparently the same goal, simply to lure them to their death for the sheer enjoyment of it. Finding out in the press conference after the movie, that the men seduced where part of a reality prank made the whole thing seem a bit awkward. Scarlett confessed that as directed, she would drive around in a van equipped with at least 8 hidden cameras rigged carefully to capture these reality TV moments. The men are then taken to some ramshackle house where they strip, the alien (Scarlett) strips and then before any sex happens, the men drown in some oily blackness.


There are a number of questions that are never answered that contribute to this movie making no sense: What was the purpose of the alien’s behaviour? Who was the alien’s accomplice since there is some guy on a motorbike that seems to show up periodically? What was his story? Why did this alien have so little available technology if she managed to arrive on earth so cleverly in the first place? Why use untrained actors when the ‘Reality aspect’ really added nothing to this storyline?


Under The Skin was screened in Venice for Venezia70 and in Toronto at TIFF13. Reaction from both audiences was similar. A ‘thumbs down’ here. Avoid this movie. However, hardcore fans of Scarlett Johansson will love it because she is on screen is some pretty racy scenes most of the time.


Moira Romano

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