What just happened? The simple answer: that was a teaser trailer for director Jonathan Glazer’s third feature, the sci-fi psychological thriller Under the Skin. The more complicated answer involves me shrugging in a number of comical ways. Adapted from Michel Faber’s unsettling 2001 debut novel of the same name, the film centers on Isserley (Scarlett Johansson), a woman who takes a journey through Scotland preying upon big burly hitchhikers. She’s not just any old female captor, however. She’s an extraterrestrial in human form, and she uses sex to bait her victims. And while that subject matter is told in an interesting way on the page, it looks like Glazer has created something that could rival the feelings that Faber’s words impart.
Any movie’s trailer can make the film look weird with quick editing and a dread-filled soundtrack, but there are some truly odd things going on in this preview. Glazer’s last feature was 2004’s disturbing Birth, which he also wrote. I don’t think anyone should be questioning his cinematography, but rather his ability to tell a good story. He’s got good source material, and it’s fine if he chooses to go outside the box and up the David Lynch-infused weirdness. For example…
When Isserley snares her men in the book she leads them down into a black inky void, which didn’t seem likely to make it to film - and yet there it is. More so than Lynch, this trailer reminds me of Panos Cosmatos’ 2010 thriller Beyond the Black Rainbow, which I honestly wish I had enjoyed more. There’s something about blue men floating over a black background that looks pretty cool. I think I’m just a fan of voids in general. Seeing Johansson with jet black hair doesn’t hurt, either.
Under the Skin is hitting three festivals in the coming weeks, Venice, Toronto and Telluride, and it has already received some positive buzz - much of it for Glazer’s opaque direction. He told the L.A. Times portions of the movie were filmed with hidden cameras, such as when Isserley is picking up her men, who happen to be strangers thinking Johansson is actually trying to give them a ride. In this, Glazer wanted viewers to catch the world as an alien experiences it, with an almost clinical approach.
There’s no release date set for Under the Skin, as it doesn't have have a distributor attached here in the United States. It looks like a great midnight movie that will get the VOD crowd on their toes. That way you don’t have to worry about catching a ride home with a sexy alien.