Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
The 20 Worst Films Of 2015 So Far The 20 Worst Films Of 2015 So Far New Images Of Bruce Wayne, Lex Luthor, More In 'Batman v. Superman,' Ben Affleck Compares Batman To Hamlet New Images Of Bruce Wayne, Lex Luthor, More In 'Batman v. Superman,' Ben Affleck Compares Batman To Hamlet Paul Thomas Anderson To Write And Possibly Direct Warner Bros' ‘Pinocchio’ For Robert Downey Jr. Paul Thomas Anderson To Write And Possibly Direct Warner Bros' ‘Pinocchio’ For Robert Downey Jr. Watch: First Trailer For Oliver Stone’s ‘Snowden’ Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley & Nicolas Cage Watch: First Trailer For Oliver Stone’s ‘Snowden’ Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley & Nicolas Cage Review: ‘Terminator: Genisys’ Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney & Jason Clarke Review: ‘Terminator: Genisys’ Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney & Jason Clarke 'Thor: The Dark World' Director Alan Taylor Says His Marvel Experience Was "Particularly Wrenching" 'Thor: The Dark World' Director Alan Taylor Says His Marvel Experience Was "Particularly Wrenching" Watch: Anna Paquin Is Rescued In Clip From 'X-Men: Days of Future Past - The Rogue Cut' Watch: Anna Paquin Is Rescued In Clip From 'X-Men: Days of Future Past - The Rogue Cut' Kevin Feige Says 'Spider-Man 2' Is "One Of The Best Superhero Movies Ever," Talks John Hughes Influence On New Spidey Kevin Feige Says 'Spider-Man 2' Is "One Of The Best Superhero Movies Ever," Talks John Hughes Influence On New Spidey Watch: Live Your Ultimate Fantasy With The First NSFW Trailer For Gaspar Noe's 'Love' Watch: Live Your Ultimate Fantasy With The First NSFW Trailer For Gaspar Noe's 'Love' Review & Recap: ‘True Detective’ Season 2, Episode 2, ‘Night Finds You’ Review & Recap: ‘True Detective’ Season 2, Episode 2, ‘Night Finds You’ Terrence Malick’s ‘Knight Of Cups’ Won’t Arrive Until 2016, Austin Music Scene Drama Not Titled ‘Weightless’ Terrence Malick’s ‘Knight Of Cups’ Won’t Arrive Until 2016, Austin Music Scene Drama Not Titled ‘Weightless’ The Punisher Will Reportedly Appear As The Villain In ‘Daredevil’ Season 2 The Punisher Will Reportedly Appear As The Villain In ‘Daredevil’ Season 2 'Lucy 2' And 'Colombiana 2' Are In Development 'Lucy 2' And 'Colombiana 2' Are In Development Mixed Reactions For Marvel's 'Ant-Man' After First Press Screening Plus New Promos And Pics Mixed Reactions For Marvel's 'Ant-Man' After First Press Screening Plus New Promos And Pics The Essentials: The 5 Best Rachel McAdams Performances The Essentials: The 5 Best Rachel McAdams Performances The 25 Best TV Shows Of The 2014/2015 Season The 25 Best TV Shows Of The 2014/2015 Season The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season

Telluride Review: Jonathan Glazer's 'Under The Skin' Starring Scarlett Johansson

The Playlist By Chris Willman | The Playlist August 30, 2013 at 4:40PM

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,” which screened Friday night at the Telluride Film Festival.
11
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,” which screened Friday night at the Telluride Film Festival.

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 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+]

Browse through all our coverage of the 2013 Telluride Film Festival to date by clicking here. 

This article is related to: Telluride Film Festival, Reviews, Review, Scarlett Johansson, Jonathan Glazer, 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