Under the Skin (2014)

If the premise of Species was shot with the sensibilities of 2001: A Space Odyssey, you’d end up with something like Under the Skin. Scarlett Johansson stars as a… something that comes to earth to hunt people. Specifically, men.

The narrative is minimalist, but even that would be an understatement. If you showed this to your typical blockbuster audience, I think many would write it off as plotless. I, however, would disagree. It’s definitely an “art” film, but I think there’s ultimately a conventional narrative that plays out in a complete way. The presentation will definitely trip people up, though. There’s little dialog, and what’s there is muttered in borderline-incomprehensible Scottish accents.

Even so, I really, really liked this movie. The visuals and sound are outstanding. The soundtrack is great. It’s simple and repetitive, but incredibly haunting. The narrative is open-ended, but in a rewarding way (not a punishing Upstream Color-ish way).

I’m always crowing about how movies need to succeed first as movies before they can succeed as art. I believe this movie does. For such a wafting story, there’s actually a lot of visceral tension here. There aren’t really any Boo! moments, but the experience of watching this still feels as thrilling as watching good horror.

I found the areas the movie explores interesting. Specifically, I think the way it portrays the instincts and behavior of men (especially as they pertain to women, or–more accurately–women’s bodies) fascinating.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t warn you, though; this movie is not for everyone. I saw it with the volume jacked in a big, empty theater. I think it would be a lot easier to get bored and say “fuck this” if you’re doing ten other things while playing this on your phone. There’s definitely a chance you watch this and say, “I’m going to kill Sven.” If you’re in the mood to take a chance, however, Under the Skin has tremendous upside.

Actually, I don’t know why I’m doing so much qualifying. This is a product in which Scarlett Johansson appears nude several times. If you like the movie surrounding it, that’s just a bonus!

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