Under-The-Skin-DI
2014 Running time: 108 Certificate: 15 Rating: 4
Under-The-Skin-KA

Synopsis

Scarlett Johansson's predatory alien takes on the guise of a young brunette to trawl the streets of Glasgow, tempting eager Scottish likely lads back to her lair in a derelict house... and a fate worse than death. After Sexy Beast and Birth, director Jonathan Glazer's adaptation of Michel Faber's cult novel is a chillingly disturbing study of lust and loneliness with Johansson perfectly cast as the otherworldly succubus who finds herself lethally drawn to the humdrum world of her human prey.

Director

  • Jonathan Glazer

Cast

  • Scarlett Johansson

  • Paul Brannigan

  • Scott Dymond

  • Michael Morland

  • Antonia Campbell-Hughes

Review

Scarlett Johansson is no stranger to playing extra-terrestrial beings after her bubblegum turn as Russian agent Natasha Romanoff, aka The Black Widow, in the superhero franchises Iron Man and Avengers Assemble.

Here she's an alien...but in a pitch black world that would inspire sheer terror in the sweaty-palmed adolescents who are lasciviously thrilled by her child-friendly capers alongside Hulk and Captain America.

We first meet her naked and bathed in white light while she strips the clothes off the immobile body of a pretty teenager that's been delivered to her by a mysterious biker who we earlier see retrieving the inert girl from the side of a road.

Dressed in the girl's clobber, she climbs into a battered white Transit van and begins cruising the streets of Glasgow, asking single men for directions in a posh English accent (this is the only film you'll ever see Johansson asked if she knows where Asda is) before tempting one into the passenger seat.

He thinks he's scored, an assumption that appears to bear out when he follows her into the darkness of a derelict house and she begins shedding her clothes while glancing coquettishly over her shoulder.

Then you see the would-be lothario wading naked into a slick of viscous black liquid... until he disappears below its gleaming surface.

Johansson - who has always had an otherworldly quality - is perfectly cast as the sci-fi femme fatale who we come to realise is tasked with tempting horny jocks back to her lair where they are held alive in suspended animation before their bodies are emulsified.

She shows no mercy - in one almost unbearable sequence a wailing baby is abandoned in the dark on a freezing pebble beach while she focusses on dragging another hapless victim back to her van.

Seen through her eyes, Earth is the unearthly place with the streets of Glasgow a disorientating gallery of strange characters who become an intriguing prospect, luring her to display what might be signs of empathy.

It's here where director Jonathan Glazer's loose adaptation of Michel Faber's novel tightens its hellish grip, thanks in no small measure to Mica Levi's shuddering electronic score and the grim realisation you might just be about to root for Johansson's killer vamp.

It's a thrillingly accomplished reversal which turns the movie on its head and completely non-plusses the viewer with an ability to see our world in all its hostile strangeness...and worse.

Tim Evans

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