Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Ridley Scott Says 'Exodus' Would Never Get Financed Starring "Mohammad So-and-So From Such-And-Such” Ridley Scott Says 'Exodus' Would Never Get Financed Starring "Mohammad So-and-So From Such-And-Such” James Cameron Says 'Avatar' Sequels Will Make You "Sh*t Yourself With Your Mouth Wide Open” James Cameron Says 'Avatar' Sequels Will Make You "Sh*t Yourself With Your Mouth Wide Open” Welcome Back To The Park: The First Trailer For 'Jurassic World' Is Here Welcome Back To The Park: The First Trailer For 'Jurassic World' Is Here Watch: 2-Hour 'Deleted Magic' Explores Deleted Scenes & Alternate Footage From The Original 'Star Wars' Trilogy Watch: 2-Hour 'Deleted Magic' Explores Deleted Scenes & Alternate Footage From The Original 'Star Wars' Trilogy New Character And Plot Details Emerge For 'True Detective' Season 2 As More Cast Members Confirmed New Character And Plot Details Emerge For 'True Detective' Season 2 As More Cast Members Confirmed James Gunn Says Shared Universe Model Is "Flawed," Plus Listen To "Awesome Mixtape Volume Zero" For 'Guardians' James Gunn Says Shared Universe Model Is "Flawed," Plus Listen To "Awesome Mixtape Volume Zero" For 'Guardians' 'Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens' Trailer Hits Theaters This Friday 'Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens' Trailer Hits Theaters This Friday Christian Bale Admits He Was Initially "Jealous" When Ben Affleck Was Cast As Batman Christian Bale Admits He Was Initially "Jealous" When Ben Affleck Was Cast As Batman Watch: First Trailer For Thomas Vinterberg's 'Far From The Madding Crowd' Starring Carey Mulligan Watch: First Trailer For Thomas Vinterberg's 'Far From The Madding Crowd' Starring Carey Mulligan Watch: Zac Efron Talks About His Masturbation Techniques In 'The Interview' Segment With James Franco Watch: Zac Efron Talks About His Masturbation Techniques In 'The Interview' Segment With James Franco Watch: Footage From "Sick," Unreleased Marilyn Manson Video, Directed By Eli Roth & Featuring Lana Del Rey Watch: Footage From "Sick," Unreleased Marilyn Manson Video, Directed By Eli Roth & Featuring Lana Del Rey Review: Christopher Nolan's 'Interstellar' Starring Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway & More Review: Christopher Nolan's 'Interstellar' Starring Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway & More Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... SXSW Review: Spierig Brothers 'Predestination'  Starring Ethan Hawke SXSW Review: Spierig Brothers 'Predestination' Starring Ethan Hawke From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More

Review: Jonathan Glazer's Seductive Girl-Who-Fell-To-Earth Pic 'Under The Skin' Starring Scarlett Johansson

The Playlist By Chris Willman | The Playlist April 1, 2014 at 6:19PM

If you’re a random male pedestrian and a gal who looks like Scarlett Johansson ever pulls up and offers to take you to her place for a quickie, the logical thing to do would be run like hell, since this could only be either a sting or a sign of the apocalypse, no matter how good looking a fellow you are. But lust trumps logic as Johansson lures a bevy of bros to their doom in “Under the Skin."
0
Under The Skin

If you’re a random male pedestrian and a gal who looks like Scarlett Johansson ever pulls up and offers to take you to her place for a quickie, the logical thing to do would be run like hell, since this could only be either a sting or a sign of the apocalypse, no matter how good looking a fellow you are. But lust trumps logic as Johansson lures a bevy of bros to their doom in “Under the Skin."

Director Jonathan Glazer, previously best known for "Sexy Beast," definitely has a seductive monster in ScareJo—er, ScarJo—this time. This is no Aileen Wuornos Goes Glam story, though, with the "2001"-style imagery at the start being a tip-off that Johansson is not your garden-variety female serial killer but rather an actual alien abductor in butt-hugging stonewashed jeans. If this sounds like a “Species” sequel with incongruous A-list casting, you’d be more on track putting Natasha Henstridge’s man-eating aside and instead picturing a sister film to “The Man Who Fell to Earth.” Glazer shares Nicolas Roeg’s taste in elliptical storytelling and interplanetary tragedy, arriving at something you could almost call horror with a heart. 

Scarlett Johansson Under The Skin

The midnight showing last summer at Telluride puzzled at least a few weary attendees. Glazer clearly isn’t interested in over-explaining anything when we first meet Johansson, who’s nude (not for the last time in the film) and appears to be adopting the physicality of a recently deceased corpse. The body has been delivered to her by an equally mysterious alien in male form who rides around the Scottish highlands on a motorcycle, cleaning up messes after the abductions but also keeping an eye on his comely partner for any signs of faithlessness to their cruel agenda. (Yes, aliens on choppers… it’s not as silly as it sounds.)

Glazer wisely spends much of the first half of the film giving us montages of Johansson picking up strangers, without a clue as to how the seat next to her became empty before her next hunting expedition. When we do finally get a glimpse of what happens to the victims after Johansson lures them to her would-be boudoir, the film suddenly sheds its local color and naturalism and takes us just far enough into the alien lair to quietly offer some of the creepiest imagery you’re likely to see in any movie this year. It’s in these disturbingly shiny scenes where Glazer’s background as a director in the pre-YouTube era of music videos comes through, to nightmare-inducing effect. 

Under The Skin

But there’s a lot more at play here than how to top “Fire in the Sky” for abduction imaginings. If you follow ufology lore, you know that aliens are largely regarded in abductees’ recountings as Third Reich-like scientists who don’t seem bound by empathy or interested in abiding by any Geneva conventions. So Glazer’s concern, essentially, is: What if a Nazi developed a conscience? That’s what eventually seems to happen once Johansson abducts a man with severe facial deformities and, in a weirdly touching series of scenes, shows hints of sympathy for her deeply lonely, Elephant Man-like prey. But, she has those Harley-riding compatriots to contend with, along with some fleet examples of the best and worst of humanity.

Johannson turns out to be perfectly cast, being able to shift from blank alien mode to kittenish seduction without ever letting you see the switch being turned on or off. Her participation won’t likely be enough to get a broad audience to “Under the Skin,” given its somber pacing and downer themes, although stills of the actress's lingerie scenes frankly might help. The denouement, while fitting as well as unexpected, may not be satisfying enough to cause a run on arthouses, either. But a cult audience with a penchant for SF morality tales may warm to this chilly girl-who-fell-to-earth story. [B+]

This is a reprint of our review from the 2013 Telluride Film Festival.


This article is related to: Jonathan Glazer, Reviews, Review, Scarlett Johansson, Under the Skin


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates