Thursday, September 29, 2022

Under the Skin (2013) Sci-Fi Neo Nor

"Noir from the Twilight Zone"

Director Jonathan Glazer. Written by Walter Campbell and Jonathan Glazer. Based on the novel by Michel Faber. Cinematography by Daniel Landin and effectively eerie Music by Mica Levi

Scarlett Johansson as The Female, Jeremy McWilliams as The Bad Man, Lynsey Taylor Mackay as The Dead Woman, Adam Pearson as The Deformed Man, Dougie McConnell as Pick-Up Man, Kevin McAlinden as First Victim, D. Meade as Leering Man, Andrew Gorman as Second Victim, Joe Szula as Man at Club, Krystof Hádek as The Swimmer, Roy Armstrong as Father at Beach, Alison Chand as Mother at Beach, Ben Mills as The Baby. Oscar Mills as The Baby, Lee Fanning as Motorcyclist #1, Paul Brannigan as Andrew, Scott Dymond as The Nervous Man Stephen Horn as Gang Member #1with Marius Bincu.   

This is based on a novel by Michel Faber. I haven't read it, but the local of Northern Scotland is kept and the general premise. An alien female attracts human men for consumption. From comments I've read the aliens in the book, live secretly hidden underground on earth to process humans and then send their meat to their home planet as delicacies. The aliens in the novel are fur covered and look somewhat like lemurs. The alien female "lure" is altered surgically to look human. 

The film tells us the story visually. Space the final frontier. We see what may be a sun. It's eclipsed by a sphere with a hole through it. A dark doughnut. This is accompanied by incoherent babbling. The doughnut morphs into an eyeball. The babbling is punctuated by recognizable words. 

Night. A landscape. 

We see a motorcyclist zipping through the darkness on a ribbon of road. He stops near a white van. He gets of the bike and drops off the shoulder of the road, disappearing into the darkness.  

A moment later he reappears with the body of a woman over his shoulder. He carries her back to the van. 

We cut to a brilliant white space. I interpret it as another dimension. The "white" dimension. David Lynch would call it "The White Room". Is this the inside of the van? We don't know. In this brilliant white space we see two figures, the body of the woman just retrieved and a naked woman standing over her. 

The White Dimension

The naked woman proceeds to methodically strip the clothing off the dead woman. Skirt. Heels. Jacket. Top. Bra. Pantyhose. Panties.

She then puts on the dead woman's clothing. 

We see a tear drip from what we had presumed was the dead woman's eye. The dressed woman is now The Female. Her last gesture in the white dimension it to gather an ant from the dead woman's pubes and gaze with curiosity as it crawls on her finger. It is her first encounter with an Earth life form.

What's this?

The Female

An Earth Creature

The Ant

We cut to a foggy old stone tower with strange lights hovering above it. 

The Tower and The Lights

The lights rise up we cut to The Female walking down an interior stairway. Another cut, The Female now shown walking through a mall. She is observing life on Earth in their natural habitats. 

She is learning. She studies the females of her target species. The way they preen, the artificial colors they display and the way move and present themselves. She is shopping for THE look that will attract the opposite sex. 

The Look

She is a predator. She is looking to cull the herd. Looking for lonely unattached men who are vulnerable. Who will never be missed. In effect a beautiful "Space" hooker. driving around in her van promising to turn a free trick for her "lucky" selection who she invites into the van. 

Wanna get lucky?

Lookin' for a good time, honey?

Hell yea!

All these potential "johns" prospects have a percussion leitmotif that when The Female is successful in her luring, builds to a an ominous conclusion. 

That conclusion takes place in a "Black Room" or the "Black" Dimension. The outward appearance is an abandoned house or a deserted building. The John thinks it's just a convenient "fuck pad." 

An abandoned house

The entrance to the Black Dimension

However, once inside the "john" is beguiled under a hypnotic trance by The Female who is doing in effect an ersatz "mating dance" by slowly taking off her clothing, in a slow striptease as she draws him further into the black mirror dimension. 

The Black Dimension

The first John

The "john," thinking he's really getting lucky also strips off his clothing until he is naked. At that moment the man still hypnotically following The Female on the reflecting plain and begins to sink with each step he takes into the now suddenly liquid mirror ectoplasm until he is fully submerged. The Female, has achieved a "mission accomplished." She stops and retrieves her clothing as she prepares to hunt in her van anew. 

The Female get's back in her van and continues her quest. The next day along a rocky shoreline at a gravelly beach she selects another victim who is swimming in a wet suit. 

However before she can make her moves, a family, picnicking on the beach with their dog, creates a diversion. The family pet ventures too close to the breaking waves and gets swept out into the breakers. The mother rushes into the water and equally gets pulled in by the undertow. 

The father yells and swims out to save his wife leaving the baby sitting on a blanket.  The swimmer in the wet suit hears the cries for help and runs over to try and help. He swims out and grabs the father who is closest and with great effort pulls him in but the hysterical father jumps in again to try and save his wife. The baby is now crying loudly. The wet suit man attempts to go out again after him but is now exhausted and barely manages to crawl out of the water. 

The Female observes all this unemotionally. Untouched by this bleakest of tragedies. The Female walks across the gravel to the wet suit swimmer who is lying prone panting, trying to catch his breath. The Female grabs a a good sized boulder and crushes his skull. 

She then drags him across the gravel and up to her van, ignoring the screaming baby. 

The Female ignores the baby and drags the man in the wet suit to the van

Done with stripping and depositing the man in the wet suit into the the black dimension The Female goes back on the hunt. 

She observes a few males hanging around the outside of a club. She decides to check it out but hesitates and turns away for some instinctive reason. 

However a 'giggle" of decked out for a night on the town females cajole The Female to join them and she gets swept into the club with them. She becomes just one of the girls.

Come on honey lets go shopping for penis

There, after learning how to interact and dance, she picks up another "john" at a club. He thinks he's a suave swinging dick who is going to get laid.

She strips and walks backward watching the male approach

Once naked he begins to sink out of site

The male continues to sink downward while overhead the female begins to retrieve her clothing. The swinger notices the naked body of the dead swimmer. 

The swinger floats towards him. He is just reaching out to  touch his body when the man suddenly implodes.


His insides are sucked down some type of conveyor towards a red slot in the Black Dimension leaving just the outer skin. 

When the process is completed the conveyor winks out in a red flash.

It starts to go Noirsville for The Female when her all her interactions with humans, begins over time, to change her perceptions of them. She basically morphs from predator to another kind of prey. 


The films cinematography and soundtrack beautifully conveys a bizarre alien view of the world. Films like this that combine a Noir Style and a non Crime genre (SciFi) are never enthusiastically embraced by the Genre fans (Think Star Wars, Star Trek, galactic battels, it doesn't fit their preconceived notions, lol), especially when the Noir Style of Films Noir in general are unknown to most of them. I, on the other hand see it as a Noir first that just happens to be about aliens rather than humans. 8/10