Sometimes it's what's inside that counts. That's especially the case in writer/director Jonathan Glazer's genre bending thriller "Under the Skin" which opens in Austin on April 18 at the Regal Arbor 8 at Great Hills in north Austin and the Alamo Drafthouse slaughter lane in south Austin.
Starring the always stunning Scarlett Johansson as a predatory alien in human form, Glazer's "Under the Skin" blends the characteristics of science fiction and horror to create what will surely be one of the most captivating films by year's end.
Johansson's alien form spends almost the entire first half the film combing the streets of Glasgow as she looks for suitable victims. What type of victims? She's searching for men with little to no attachments to life on earth and thus won't be missed by many or any people. Why does she need these male victims? They're food for her starving planet back home.
Johansson's human form is intoxicatingly seductive which makes her lonely victims, who are all played by non-professional actors, all the more helpless. Each is lured to her home which features one of the most incredible sets in years. The set just happens to be a large, black and horrific room in which she lures her victims to their doom with her powerful seduction ability.
This black room perhaps is aesthetically the peak of this films immense beauty. While it's hard to imagine a large open black room being so transfixing, the complexity of the images and director of photography Daniel Landin's camerawork as Johansson traps her victims in the ground below is worthy of marvel and recognition.
The room also provides the setting for two of the most wondrous and powerful sequences of the film. The slow decomposition of her victims and their processing into the meat her planet needs has the power to both gross out and fascinate as Glazer pays homage to the techniques and imagery of many of his sci-fi/horror influences.
However, despite being nothing short of an alien seductress and executioner, Johansson's character is not immune to the feelings of the human condition. After an encounter with a severely disfigured man whom she lets escape the horrors of her home, Johansson's alien self goes on the run from her motorbike riding alien counterparts who are relying on her to deliver their planet's much needed meat supply. This marks a significant change of tone in the film from sci-fi thriller to perhaps an exploration of the human condition at its most primitive state up through the film's conclusion.
While the non-linear plot (if you can call it a plot) may confuse some people as well as the sudden ending which leaves many questions about the alien unanswered, "Under the Skin" will surely mark a deep and lasting etch in the memories of film lovers this year and will likely be on many best film lists by the years end.
"Under the Skin" opens on April 18 at the Regal Arbor 8 at Great Hills in north Austin and the Alamo Drafthouse slaughter lane in south Austin. Showtimes and tickets can be obtained here once they become available.