Under the Skin Blu-ray Review
There is a small dot of light that progressively gets larger until it suddenly turns into a giant ball with rays beaming from it. The light seems to take different forms, eventually revealing an eye. A woman’s voice sounds out letters and words: S…Z…T…Ba, ba, K, Kuh…Zzz, B-B-buh, G-G-guh…F…Field, Fill, Film, Foil, Failed, Pills…Sell…
The woman (Scarlett Johansson, HER), an alien, has come to Earth (more specifically, Scotland) to fulfill her duty. It begins when she kidnaps a woman and strips her of her clothes so she can have a human wardrobe. Then she goes to the mall to complete her look with a fur coat and red lipstick. Her prey is men and they’re all around. She navigates the streets in a white van, and when she sees a potential victim, she beeps the horn, waves and asks for directions to a destination she doesn’t need to get to. That gives her the opportunity to seduce the men and bring them back to some sort of lair, where an inky liquid pulls them under.
She visits the beach, where she asks a man if there are any good surfing spots, even though it must be hard to hang ten in that getup. She wallops the man with a rock and is immediately haunted by the cries of his child, who she and her street bike-riding partner (professional motorcycle racer Jeremy McWilliams) left abandoned in the rocks and sand. Soon after, she’s dragged into a club by a gang of ravers, which leads her to another victim.
Viewers may immediately want to know what the alien is specifically using the bodies for. But UNDER THE SKIN is a film that resists handing the viewer all of the answers (if there are any) and instead prefers them to watch and listen (although there is very little dialogue). Really, the answer to Why? doesn’t matter, because the film is less about story than it is about the experience.
This is a cerebral science-fiction film that calls to mind classics such as Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, Andrei Tarkovsky’s SOLARIS and Nicolas Roeg’s THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH. Like the directors did with those iconic works, Jonathan Glazer (2000’s SEXY BEAST, 2004’s BIRTH) here sidesteps the explicit and outlandish and opts to quietly and delicately develop the atmosphere and environment.
The film is co-written by Glazer and Walter Campbell, who adapted Michael Faber’s 2000 novel. The novel could offer more answers than the film, but even those that still desire solutions after the credits roll may want to avoid reading it, for it would rob the film of what it offers: the allowance to ponder ideas and themes for days after. Sticking with the viewer also are the terrifying images of the victims, who, when in the liquid, collapse and distort—that they don’t scream before or during is somehow more disturbing than if they did.
UNDER THE SKIN was nominated for the Golden Lion at the 2013 Venice Film Festival.
UNDER THE SKIN BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: 1.85:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. This is an excellent high-definition transfer that remains faithful to director Jonathan Glazer’s vision and cinematographer Daniel Landin’s work while enhancing the atmosphere and mood of the film. While somewhat lacking in the handheld scenes, details are strong and black levels are inky for the duration.
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Subtitles in English and Spanish. UNDER THE SKIN is a pretty quiet film and so is light on showy aspects. That said, there is a fitting atmosphere here created through delicate sound effects and a fitting Mica Levi score, both of which, along with the dialogue, come through without flaw.
The Making of UNDER THE SKIN (42:23) is divided into 10 featurettes, which can be viewed separately or as a whole. They are: “Camera,” “Casting,” “Editing,” “Locations,” “Music,” “Poster Design,” “Production Design,” “Script,” “Sound” and “VFX.”