Man, this film. This movie has done something to me that I never would have thought possible. It is one of the most brilliantly-constructed films I have seen in a long time, and I viscerally hate it. I hate every minute of it. As amazing as this film is in all technical respects, I hate it. How does that even work? You’d think that I would at least have some respect for how perfect the construction is. But I don’t. I have no respect for it at all. I hate this film. It is so unpleasant. There is a kind of off-putting unpleasantness that makes me hate this film on so many levels. How is this possible?! It’s driving me nuts! It won’t leave my mind! Let’s talk about it.
The film stars Scarlett Johansson as a nameless creature in human skin. She goes through a Scottish town, finding people. She lures them to a dark place, and then they die. The story chronicles her journeys, and that is all I can say about the plot. This is an incredibly simple film. Deceptively so. A lot of elements play out, and this film never holds your hand.
The first thing to know about this film is that it’s dark. Really, really dark. The levels of darkness that this film goes to are seldom-reached by any film. No blood, no gore. Just darkness. In fact, the thing to know about this film is that it uses darkness to its advantage. Almost non-stop. Which ties right in to the second thing to know about this film – it will freak you the fuck out! This movie is scary! From the opening shot, it is just creepy! There is a huge fear aspect, and almost all of it is subliminal. I am totally behind calling this film – nightmare-fuel. If you watch this movie when it’s dark, with no outside sounds, it will fuck up your mind.
I do have to give this film one thing – the soundtrack. It is constantly off-putting. I mean constantly. Not one time does this movie let up and give you a break. From the very first shot, with that creepy music playing, it takes you off-center. The best thing about it is that it isn’t cliche horror music. It is…I don’t know. Like, it makes me think of old slasher films. Really old slashers. There is that creepy ambiance music that plays in the background. That’s what this is. However, the score is used sparingly. This is a film that trades on quiet. Whether it be complete silence, soft ambient sound or radio news, this film has very little noise. That’s part of the reason that it’s so fucking scary. No matter what the scene, the sound totally fucks with you.
Then there are the performances. Johansson turns in a performance like none that I have seen in a very long time. This woman has come into her own as an actress in a huge way. From the brilliant voice-work in Her, to the off-putting creature of unknown origin in this film. You can never read her. Ever. The expressions she uses, the subtle way she just stares and looks at things. Whether she is surveying us humans as prey or just sitting and listening to the radio. It’s all subliminal. Like it’s in her mind. Her body language speaks volumes.
Why do I hate this movie?! For real, this film has everything going for it! It has strong acting. The shots are set up amazingly. The music sets the ton perfectly. Why do I hate this film? I’ve been debating this with myself for some time. I can’t figure it out. Maybe it’s just the unrelenting cruelty of the film. For real, it never lets up. There is a scene on a beach that I watch and the whole time I’m thinking – what the fuck is wrong with you, movie?! Why did you have a scene like that?! Why would you make such a horrifically-unpleasant scene for us to watch?!
This ties in to the camerawork. There is never a scene where the actors look at the camera. Even when it is staring right at them, they are always looking slightly off to the outside. It’s like we are trapped in this film. We, the audience, are trapped with this film. We are stuck watching these horrible things happen. There is nothing we can do. We can’t save the people who are being killed. We can’t stop the awful things that are happening. All we can do is watch, and pray that we’re not next. God I hate this film! I hate it so much that I can’t help but love it.
There are few films that do this well at their job. For real, it almost never happens. Almost never do I see a film that sticks with me the way that this one does. I felt so powerless, watching it. I kept wanting to jump into the screen and stop the events transpiring. But I couldn’t. All I could do was sit there and watch. And for that, I give this movie major props. I hate this film so much that I have to love it. I think that might just be the highest praise I have ever given a film. Which brings us to my Verdict. This has been unbelievably hard.
9 out of 10