The catchline on this movie’s poster states “Sometimes terrible things happen quite naturally.” That’s a good sum-up, although I think if there was a moral, it was this:”Sometimes life sucks, and keeps on sucking until your skin is ripped from your body and you’re left a shivering, gelatinous, skinless freak from a Clive Barker film/book.”…no, my mom wasn’t Sylvia Plath, and yes, you probably should take your daily dosage of Paxil before viewing this film.
‘The Reflecting Skin’ is definitely not for the squeamish. Cinematic Martha Stewarts will probably hate it. But much like those safety films they used to show in school like ‘Red Asphalt’, or your typical episode of ‘Hollywood Squares’ one is forced to watch on in horror as one bad thing after another just keeps happening to the characters. It reminds me of something William Burroughs said, something like “If your luck just keeps getting worse during the day, just quit and hole up somewhere.” And guess what, I’d like to think it’s just coincidence, but I’ve had to rewrite this damn review twice tonight…(actually, last night. The third time, when I learned the hard lesson of not to hit the ‘back’ button on your browser because the forms don’t keep their content, I took Bill’s advice and called it a night.) The first time I had to start over after Billy Gates and his bullshit platform froze up on me, the second time after the power freaked out. No storm, no nothin’, just 10 minutes of darkness and someone somewhere with some insulated bolt-cutters and a tip from the NSA, I guess. Never underestimate the power of positive (or in this case, negative) thinking. Oh, and always keep a pen and pad handy, and ALWAYS save and back-up your work. Okay, enough of the Deputy Dog routine…
I don’t know why this movie hasn’t gotten more word-of-mouth. It’s been out for almost 9 years now, and it’s script and direction is brilliantly crafted by Philip Ridley. I’ve been told by Oz that Ridley also did ‘The Krays’ and ‘Passion of Darkly Noon’, and that the latter was the last in his film career. If you’re a fan of the David Lynch surrealistic school of cinema, but you sometimes wish his storytelling was a bit more coherent, then I highly suggest you seek out this film. You may have a little trouble finding it as many places just don’t carry it (not namin’ any names, but one such place is a real BALLBUSTER!).
The story itself is set in a midwestern farming community back in the late 40’s/early 50’s. It’s loosely centered around a 9 year old boy named Seth. The horrors this boy is subjected to would probably put most people in a permanent fetal position. His mother is a moody, abusive headcase who makes Joan Crawford look like Carol Brady. His father is a cold, distant alcoholic…and to boot, he’s one of those guys who confuses ‘BigBrothers & Sisters Club’ with ‘Singles Club’…or such is implied in the film, we never know for sure. Add to this the following things:
A strange, widowed neighbor who Seth believes is a vampire (she’s british and pale..she MUST be a vampire!)
A loving older brother who’s unfortunately in love with Seth’s vampire
A phantom car full of wax-skinned serial killers
A sidekick that’s a petrified fetus (I SWEAR!)
Exploding frogs (once again I SWEAR!)
Creepy siamese twins with funky eyes and some weird language that only twins can understand
The inexplicable murders of neighborhood playmates
…Add it all up, and you get an atmosphere thick in confusion, bleakness and general creepiness..not to mention a high rating on the “I just can’t describe it”-meter.
I think I can safely say that it’s a movie about death, or more accurately, the naivety and confusion in a child’s perception of death and its impact. Either that, or it perfectly captures the despair of life in small-town America!
You thought the guys in ‘Deliverance’ were creepy? I’ll tell you what, I’d take a naked hike through the Georgia Appalachians before I’d go anywhere near Iowa or Kansas. Put that in your corn-cob pipe and smoke it, Dorothy.