..Scarlett Johansson puts in most of the grunt work in Jonathan Glazer’s first film in 13 years.
A species from another planet embodies the human female form and combs the highway in search of isolated or forsaken men, luring a succession of lonely men into an otherworldly lair where they are seduced, stripped of their skin, and never heard from again.
Glazer has made, by far, one of the eeriest and creepiest films that have come out in the past decade.
“Under The Skin” is a bare-bones, artfully rendered sci-fi tale that sinks into you and never leaves. Johansson plays the human mask in which an alien lifeform inhabits and uses to seduce lonely men while slowly becoming enthralled with the skin it’s in.
Johansson is equal parts convincing and alluring as a creature unsure how to be a human, yet in charge and fully capable of understanding how to rope the men she gets into the van she drives by preying on insecurities and acting as temptress.
It’s thrilling, yet uneasy, to watch her drive from highway to highway picking up strange men; there’s almost a taxicab confessions aesthetic to it and there are times where the men are sympathetic enough to really fret over as Johansson walks them into her house of horror.
A house that, onscreen, resembles nothing but a black void should reasonably freak anyone out, but the sight of Johansson slowly undressing and walking away from her victims is enough of a distraction that they don’t even notice it. Nor do they notice their bodies slowly sinking into a liquid abyss that deteriorates their bodies. The movie starts to change gears when she gets comfortable in her skin and yearns to become something more than a trap. Johansson plays vulnerable really well and it’s wonderful to see this alien out of an element that is natural for her, but the movie never lets you feel safe as you’re watching it and it’s one of the joys of the whole experience.
Glazer’s sense of mood and tone is perfect. There’s an air of Kubrick to it, but it doesn’t feel like imitation. It experiments with spacey images and barren landscapes with a soundtrack that buzzes and hisses in an insidious fashion.
“Under The Skin“ feels wholly original and sinister; with the set design, the score and it’s minimalist style. Everything about the movie lives up to its title; and it gets in under your skin and it never leaves.
By the time it’s over, you still feel the need to unpack it and decide what to feel about what you saw. It has an eeriness that is unmatched in a lot of films in its category. It’s an arthouse science-fiction thriller and it’s always beautiful to look at, even at its most gruesome. This film already has an early lead as the best of the year and we’re only four months in.
Under the Skin opens today in theaters nationwide.