After watching Her, I’ve been on a Scarlett Johansson kick. I followed Her with Lucy, a flawed sci-fi action flick, and then Under the Skin.
Under The Skin is a stylized sci-fi horror flick where an alien (played by Johansson) hunts men for food. Her hunting style consisting of picking up men off the streets and taking them to secluded buildings.
Despite coming out in 2013, I didn’t hear about this movie until almost a year later. Netflix suggested it, the box art looked awesome. The trailer framed Under The Skin as disturbing and something I hadn’t seen before. Hell, one of the reviews said the director was “the next Kubrick.”
I was in.
Then I watched it. Twice.
And after watching two times, I couldn’t tell you with any certainty what the story was. Even the description above is questionable. Is she an alien? Maybe. She could be a robot. I don’t know. All I know is she’s not human and eats men.
One other thing I can tell you with 100% certainty: The visuals are stunning. There’s no doubt about it. The director, Jonathan Glazer, has an eye for it.
But Under The Skin tells its story with visuals and subtext. Other than quick conversations the creature has with potential victims, there is little dialog. And that is a huge knock against this movie.
Call me uncultured. Call me a philistine. Call me what you will, but I need dialog. Not only does it keep me from falling asleep (twice), it tells me things subtext and visuals alone can not.
Had there been more dialog, then I wouldn’t have a lot questions after watching (twice). Who was the guy on the motorcycle? Why did he care about the alien? Why did he help her? Had there been more, I would have understood the move. Better yet, it would have helped me care more about what I watched.
If the Kubrick line was a real review, then there is a problem on how some view his work. There’s no arguing that Kubrick used stylish shots and subtext. There are documentaries on every little detail in The Shining, asking what Kubrick is trying to say. But his movies still had dialog.
Until Glazer proves otherwise, he isn’t the next Kubrick. Both the artistic crowd and the masses can enjoy a Kubrick film. Glazer and Under The Skin are not in the same wheel house.
As far as a horror film. I can honestly say there were two scenes that were horrific. In one scene, the typical family (man, wife, newborn, family dog) are at a beach. The dog is caught in the current and couldn’t get back to shore. The wife goes after the dog. The man goes after the wife. The wife and dog drown. The creature brings the man back to shore and bashes his head in with a rock. That scene ends with a five minute shot of the couple’s newborn sitting on the beach, bawling it’s eyes out.
In the other scene, we see a man who’s been soaking in some mysterious liquid. He’s one of the victims from earlier. His skin is swollen from floating in whatever the hell he was floating in. Another victim, who is also floating in the mysterious goo, reaches out to make contact. After the new victim recoils in horror, we see the bloated man reduced to floating skin. His insides, bones and all, were removed in an instant.
Those are the best scenes in Under The Skin and two scenes do not make a movie worth watching. Unless you’re into long, stylized shots and movies where you a super secret decoder ring for the plot, then skip this movie.