Under the Skin

Under the Skin ★★★★★

[This is movie #18 in my Hooptober 2023 watch.]

Originally, this is one of the movies I was going to target for my "non-horror horror" films as it is not listed as horror on Wikipedia, but it is listed as such here. At least now it is. I'll say it does count as a non-horror horror, since it's on Alicja's "These are horrors" list, and it's certainly pushing the boundaries of multiple genres so that it's not your typical genre fare. And, like, wow — this film was stunningly constructed, beautifully acted throughout (with largely non-professional actors), and totally mesmerizing in tone.

The plot is simple enough — alien comes to Scotland, takes the form and clothes (or was it the literal skin?) of a dead woman, and then proceeds to hunt and feed. At least, initially hunts and feeds, and then only later seems to digress into perhaps trying to understand the human experience a bit better. With inconsistent results. The movie has very little dialogue, is all about the "vibes" throughout, and has some of the most gorgeous cinematography I've seen in a while. And the sound design and musical choices throughout heightened this immensely.

I love the focus on non-professional actors throughout. There's a consistent emphasis on how pitiable humans are, providing a (surprising, given the plot) sense of empathy for the alien's victims. I suppose that's why the film goes where it goes, but it's not done in a particularly didactic way, just a way that repeatedly highlights how fragile and brief the lives of her victims are. The "devouring" scenes (if that what they were) were fascinatingly done and mesmerizing; even for victims that we are, initially in many cases, likely to see as "less than human."

There are still elements of the film I didn't understand or want to think more about — first, what the guy with the motorcycle was doing. Was he another alien? Was he human? He seemed to be rounding up the ones who had seen Johannson's character at first, but the more I think about it, he seemed to be picking up people who could serve as good lures for the future. The first scene, getting the corpse of the woman that would serve as Johansson's template, but also cleaning up around the baby, the disfigured man, etc.

Anyway, lots to appreciate in this, and I definitely want to watch it uninterrupted next time (I had to get the kids in the middle of watching it today, and this is certainly not a movie I wanted to complete in front of them). I'm surprised that for an A24 release, this still hasn't received a fancy 4K UHD set with lots of extras — I know it was a commercial disappointment, but I hope that eventually we'll get a deluxe version someday.

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