Under the Skin (2014) is a different type of horror. There's no surprises waiting to jump out from behind a corner. There's no gore for gore's sake. The Scottish fog doesn't mask a cornfield filled with screaming, virginal teenagers.
What makes Under the Skin a unique experience is the camera. It becomes an alien surrogate, putting the audience in the position of a passive observer to humanity's quirks. The lust, the mealtimes, the midnight runs to the grocery store, the sweaty dance parties, the hope, the fear, the disgust - each registers the same. The lens is dispassionate. It forgoes the usual tricks meant to maximize the moment. In doing so, it becomes as alien to our expectations as Scarlett Johansson's main character.
There's some interesting commentary about predators, human or otherwise. We see the alien begin its prowl. She is an object of sexual attraction for those too lonely, too misanthrope, or too wrong to be missed. Sacrificed to unsettling blackness, she returns to the hunt. As her character arc progresses, however, she begins displaying the all-too-human emotions of pity and curiosity. Ironically, it is her transformation to something approaching human that makes her prey for another.
Answers aren't easy. What was the motorcycle guy all about? They pureed people for … what? If the attempted rapist was also the one that killed the deadly alien does that make him a hero? And how are we supposed to feel about that? Usually, it is lazy to leave a satisfactory conclusion as an exercise for the audience. Here, however, the mystery makes things more chilling. The horror is of our design.
The making of this movie reveals a slapdash process. I'm amazed it is as coherent as it is. That said, those desiring the typical space opera and clear story will be disappointed. For those curious and willing to seek out new cinematic experiences may be haunted by Under the Skin. It will come after you long after the final credits roll.
See it if: You like a bit of fartsy in your artsy, don't mind your movies ambiguous, or ever wondered what Radiohead's Karma Police video is like when stretched out to 107 minutes.
Seen on: Amazon Prime Video