Loosely based on Michel Faber’s 2000 novel of the same name, Under The Skin is a 2013 British-American science fiction movie starring Scarlett Johanssen and directed by Jonathan Glazer who also co-wrote the script along with Walter Campbell. It’s an artsy movie that drags and stretches and has very little dialogue and few actors – a lot of the scenes were shot with a hidden camera as Johanssen talked to people on the streets and another character is played by the owner of the land some of the scenes were shot in. Championship motorcycle road racer Jeremy McWilliams was cast as the motorcyclist alien, as the film required a “world-class” motorcyclist who could ride through the Scottish Highlands at very high speeds in bad weather conditions.
The movie starts with some odd 60s scifi looking imagery and then we see a biker riding at night on the streets of Scotland. He stops near a van and finds the body of a young woman on the side of the road and he picks it up and puts it in the van. A naked woman, in a featureless white void, removed the clothes of the dead girl and puts them on. The woman (Johanssen) later drives the van on the streets looking for men to prey on once she lures them in for sex, which she promises them in her remote residence. She selects men on the pretext of asking for directions and chooses the ones who don’t have family around or who won’t be easily missed. Once she gets them to her residence, they walk in a black, featureless void and the men sink into a black liquid abyss with their skin separated from their flesh. I don’t know how to explain what the liquid looks like but imagine a thick liquid kinda like black jello! The woman and the motorcyclists are both aliens, with human skin fitted onto them to make them look like human beings, and the bodies of the victims are processed for food which is sent to their home planet!
There is another scene where the woman attempts to pick up a swimmer at a beach but he is distracted by the cries of help from a couple who are drowning. He tries to save them but the woman, ignoring the cries of the couple’s infant on the beach, hits his head with a rock and drags him away. Later the motorcyclist comes and disposes of the swimmer’s belongings leaving the baby there. However something happens to the woman as she lures a lonely disfigured man – she begins to feel empathy and lets him free even after she gets him to her residence. The disfigured man is however found by the motorcycle alien who dumps him into a car that he steals and drives off with him. The woman goes to a hotel and attempts to eat human foo; cake but finds that she cannot swallow it. Later she meets a man on a bus who takes her in from the rain, cooks her food and gives her a room to sleep in. Later he tries to have sex with her but she stops abruptly and examines her vagina in the light of a table lamp (I am led to believe that she discovers that she cannot have sex with a human). She then makes her way to a forest and sleeps in a shelter there but wakes up to a logger, who she had met earlier, attempting to rape her.
As she tries to get away, the logger rips her clothes and finds that the skin has torn off too – to reveal an almost featureless black skinned alien beneath the human skin. The woman rips offs the rest of her fake skin but the frightened logger, runs away and returns with some petrol which he uses to douse her body and lights it on fire. The alien dies in the flames as her ashes coil in the sky, freed from her former life of killing humans as it becomes apparent that the time spent in human skin, pretending to be human and interacting with them has made her feel like a human as well.
Weird, dull, boring and dragging. It’s a thoughtful film, but it is so devoid of excitement or action. Despite the fact that I liked the concept and the imagery, the movie is dull. I almost fell asleep a few times. I’m going to give it a grudging 6 outta 10!