Under the Skin

SCI-FI; 1hr 48min

STARRING: Scarlett Johansson

On the prowl: Johansson

Judging by Sexy Beast and Birth, director Jonathan Glazer loves to test limits. He stretches them again with Under the Skin, in which a mechanistic Johansson stars as a rapacious, crisply British, man-hunting alien at large in Scotland. Trawling the drab Glasgow streets in a nondescript van, she — it — is a pouty package of tightly showcased curves. But beware! Hers is a siren song, luring unwary, lust-glazed victims (regular guys, filmed with hidden cameras) to a skin-crawling end.


From the initial alien perspective, humanity is an unlovely rabble. Having read the press notes, I now understand that in Michael Faber’s 2000 book, on which Walter Campbell’s screenplay is loosely based, the captured men are “turned into a type of meat [for] her starving homeland.” But for whatever reason, the ceaseless prowl isn’t much of an existence, taking its toll as the alien’s sense of certainty is weakened and she begins to feel attached. A physically and emotionally exposed Johansson does most of the heavy lifting — not that Glazer goes easy on the human race. There’s a stygian lure to his dance of destruction, but this planet is a pitiless place.