Unlike a lot of the folks solicited for this list, I’m seldom especially impressed by horror movies. Gore and jump scares rarely illicit much of an emotional response from me; I’m not the target audience of slasher flicks or violence porn. It’s just boring to me for the most part, almost like that picture on the back of Reign In Blood by Slayer. Here you have this music that gets on about Satan and the holocaust and dark stuff like that, but you have the dudes in the band mean mugging for the camera and crushing cans of shitty domestic beer, which is as horrifying as a frisbee contest. Oh you rascals, you. I mean, I think it’s hilarious, but it doesn’t exactly exude “toughness” or engender fear in me, if that’s the point. Things like Slayer, Friday the 13th, or Saw just seem like something that you do at a party when you want to seem edgy, but who am I to ruin your fun.
It’s the psychological stuff that gets me. It started with Communion when I was a kid. Have you seen that flick? Hoo-boy. Christopher Walken alone is horrifying enough, but when you add alien abductions and body horror it only compounds from there. I moved from there to movies like Jacob’s Ladder or The Shining -the Kubrick version, not that whack-ass King thing and his haunted bushes or whatever- all of which get into your head and stick with you. It’s that kind of creepy horror, that brooding kind of silence that more often than not leaves it to your imagination instead of showing you some corny ass monster that gets me. And Under the Skin is far and away the cream of the crop.
Maybe it was all about the timing. I caught this movie one sleepy afternoon right after the birth of my first child two years ago. Becoming a parent is in and of itself a fundamental psychological change; no longer is the world about you and what you might want to do. As such, it’s easy to feel like you’ve lost some degree of agency. Are you ever going to be free again (spoiler: yes)? Will you ever get to do the things that bring you joy? Is your body your own, certainly a question best suited for women, but still somewhat relative to men, at least from a biological level? So it could have just all be a measure of my circumstances that lead me here.
It might also be the soundtrack, which is the stuff of nightmares. For someone that didn’t have a history of film scores, Mica Levi, aka Micachu knocked it out of the fucking park. This is the sort of music that you listen to when you want to make your coworkers or neighbors think that you might have a body in your basement or something like that. It pulls at your nerves and makes you want to just get away from it. It’s perfect. But don’t take my word for it. Listen below:
Of course the film itself is stunning. Scarlett Johansson is absolutely stunning in this role. What is she? Is she a demon or an alien? Either way, her struggle with her humanity is compelling and frightening. The cinematography and special effects are remarkable and haunting. The scenes that take place in the black room, for lack of a better term, will fuel your restless nights for years to come. As a commentary on identity and agency, this is pitch perfect. Quiet and sinister, this is exactly the kind of movie that will stick with you for years after you see it, just as it has me.