‘Under the Skin’ is an alluring, somber sci-fi experience

Logan Raschke, Editor-in-Chief

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Editor’s note: This review contains spoilers.

Jonathan Glazer’s alien drama/horror/science fiction film “Under the Skin” grips onto open-minded audiences with its abnormal, often uncomfortable visual and auditory elements.

This is a film that’s definitely not for everyone. The makeup of the film as a whole is leagues different compared to any average movie: Scenes continue for exhausting periods of time with little to no sound or dialogue, accompanying unsettling imagery.

This lack of verbal communication between subjects within the film, and lack of any sound at all, can easily lead to confusion because there’s no literal confirmation of anything in the film. Just about everything is left up to interpretation.

I have to admit I was confused for most of the first half of the movie because I didn’t get as much confirmation from the characters as I was used to getting from other more conventional films.

After opening up my mind and analyzing the events of the movie a second time, I realized that it’s worth a watch not because it entertained me for an hour and 48 minutes but because it revealed to me an experience not many films can. This movie made me extremely uncomfortable and depressed, and as weird as it sounds, that’s kind of refreshing.

“Under the Skin” is about an alien who uses a human suit to disguise itself in the streets of Scotland.

This alien, for reasons the audience never finds out, is on a mission to lure as many unsuspecting human males into its chambers as it can. From there, the alien uses some sort of device to remove their interior organs until nothing’s left of them but flimsy skin suits.

We never find out what the aliens do with the skin suits, but we can deduce they’re used for other aliens to disguise themselves as human beings on Earth.

Even the way the males are reduced to skin suits is unclear.

All the audience sees is Scarlett Johansson, the actress playing the alien, walking into a deep, perhaps endless chasm that is nothing but blackness. Following her is every man she has seduced.

Eventually, each male finds himself stepping in some sort of thick liquid, slowly submerging but not reacting at all. The men just keep moving forward towards the alien, and the alien keeps on walking away.

Soon enough, each man is completely submerged, but we don’t see what happens to them afterwards until the audience has witnessed the same ritual twice.

Apparently the men can actually see each other while they’re all completely submerged—they don’t talk or emote, or breathe for that matter (as far as the audience can tell). As enough time passes, their skin wrinkles and, in a sudden flash, their organs disappear from their bodies, going down a red chute, leaving the limp, lifeless skin suits floating in black nothingness.

Not understanding something that is happening in a movie is one thing; not knowing is another.

Not understanding is a result of confusion, which can be a result of a number of factors (viewers not watching closely, poor chronologies in stories, poor writing, etc.). This can be frustrating to a viewer.

Not knowing in a film means the director had the chance to explain, but the director chose not to. It’s all interpretation. All uncertainty.

The unknown is very unsettling. This film had the option to show what the completely dark room looks like, to explain how exactly the organs of these men just disappear, to explain what the chute is, to answer why the aliens are doing all of this, but it chooses not to. Instead, all the audience gets is effective darkness.

We can imagine, but we will never know for sure, and that’s pretty scary.

Eventually the alien begins to take pity on the human race after seeing how kindhearted it can be and decides to let one of the men it intended to use for a skin suit go, effectively putting an end to its mission.

The alien comes to terms with the fact that while it may want to do human things, it simply is not built to do them. It tries and fails to eat human food; it tries and fails to have sex with another human.

The alien’s desire to conform or mesh with the human race and go against its original mission simply isn’t plausible, though. That’s all I’ll reveal about the ending of the film.

“Under the Skin” is an experience first, a movie second. Sure, it tells a story, but to me, what really sold it was its illusive, peculiar visuals and downright creepy soundtrack.

A good film makes its audience feel, and I felt two extremely powerful emotions while I watched “Under the Skin”: unease and despondence.

This isn’t a typical alien horror film. In a lot of ways, the scary elements of this film are very subtle, but they build up. When these elements come to a climax, it makes the audience feel an intensely powerful emotion: unease.

How many compelling films make you feel really, really uncomfortable? If you have an open mind and about two hours to spare, this film might open you up to a very new experience you’ve never had before.

Logan Raschke is a senior journalism major. She can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].