Under the Skin (2013)

Today is day 2 of Prime Day on Amazon and I stopped by to see if I could find a good deal, and boy, did I. They were offering specific channels for $0.99 a month for two months. I have already several channels on Amazon Prime so I took the chance to add two more, Paramount + and Showtime. They are two more sources for me to use for this DailyView activity, which is awesome. Then, in August, I can cancel them if I choose. If I watch one movie that I would have had to rent, it makes the deal worthwhile.

And the first movie to watch off Showtime was a film about which I have one of my favorite stories from my movie viewing experiences. It is the Scarlett Johansson led science fiction film, Under the Skin.

I went to see Under the Skin when it was in theaters. I went to the movie theater in Dubuque that is now Phoenix Theaters. It was an early Sunday morning and it was scheduled for an 11:20 showing. As always, I am early and was there by 10:45. I was the only patron in the theater, which I usually enjoy, but would play a big role in the story.

As I was sitting in my seat waiting for the show to start, the commercials were not playing properly. I did not know this at the time. It was playing over the speakers, but had nothing on the screen. Even the sound was off a little, which created an almost eerie soundtrack for the morning.

As I sat there, I was wondering when the film would start. This was pre-cell phone for me (in fact, this was one of the key reasons why I eventually got one), so I had no idea what time it was. I have a good internal clock so I expected it was close to time. Up at the front of the theater, there was a little temp box which I walked up to and it also had the time on it. It was just a few minutes away from the start of the movie so I went back to my seat and sat down, expecting the film to start in any minute.

The next thing I know, one of the attendants came into the theater and said to me that I should have told them that the film was not working. It was almost in a chastising manner. I told her that I did not have a watch or phone and I had no idea about the time. She told me it was 12:30. I had been there over an hour in an empty theater with no movie playing.

I couldn’t believe it. I must have sat down and fallen asleep, but I did not feel as if I had slept. They told me that they could not start the film now because it would screw up the rest of the day’s showtimes and they gave me a free pass, and I left. I considered using the free pass to come back to the theater later that day to see the next showing of Under the Skin, but I was too creeped out to do so. I made jokes about having “missing time” which is even more ironic when you consider the fact that Under the Skin is a science fiction movie about aliens.

I have never watched Under the Skin in the eight years since that failed attempt despite several possible chances to see it. I know it was on Netflix for awhile and it had made it on my queue, but never to my screen.

Until now.

The movie started with a cold open before the title card that was one of the most effective use of creepy sounds and darkness that I can remember form a movie. It was disturbing and unsettling.

Scarlett Johansson played The Female, an alien being who takes the form of a beautiful woman, and goes searching through Scotland, trying to lure men into her van, taking them to be … devoured, I guess?

The atmosphere of this movie is the most significant aspect of this film. I got a distinct Twin Peaks feel several times as I was watching, especially the scenes of the men and The Female in the darkness. Some of the imagery of Under the Skin absolutely gets under your skin as a viewer. It is meant to be unsettling and it works extremely well. There is an undercurrent of horror that sneaks up on you. You’re never sure what is happening and you are kept confused to a point where you feel ill at ease.

The score of the movie is perfectly in place and drives up the tension and anxiety of each moment with Scarlett Johansson and her victims. It is a haunting experience. The score was composed by Mica Levi.

The final act, where The Female begins to experience the human condition more than she had, really becomes something like you would find in the weirdest places in Twin Peaks or inside the mind of David Lynch. I would not be surprised to find out that Twin Peaks was an inspiration for director Jonathan Glazer. The final scenes are as disturbing a climax as you are going to see.

This would be the prime example of an art-house picture. The story does not feel like the main focus of the movie, but the compilation of scenes amazing to watch and disturbing to experience is the main force behind Under the Skin.

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