Under the Skin stars Scarlett Johansson as an alien of unknown origin who descends upon Earth with the sole purpose of luring prey – easily seducible men. During her short time in Glasgow, Scotland, the alien protagonist, Laura, absorbs the foreign culture around her, threatening her very existence and her mission.

The science-fiction film, directed by Jonathan Glazer, isn’t your typical genre feature. From the opening sequence, it’s clear that evocative abstraction will trump the more sensational or explicit. Instead of showing the total transformation of the alien woman – an idea contemplated and thrown out by Glazer – all you see is the formation of her human eye, while hearing the assonance of her practicing earthling speech.

Under the Skin managed not to succumb to conceit in its large ambition, which included whittling down Michael Faber’s sci-fi book to a most basic concept and making it look as though it could truly happen in our world. The movie simply triumphs, using signposts in place of exposition to provide a look at the ethos of our world though a lens that is both alien and enchanting. While Scarlett Johansson’s commitment to her most daring role was a joy to watch, it’s the focused direction of Glazer that makes the film.

In the first half of the movie, Laura passes through Scotland as something of a sociopathic voyeur. Incredibly, many of these scenes were shot with hidden cameras, making the shopping mall landscape completely non-fabricated. Also non-fabricated are the people rushing to help up a face-planted Johansson – to them just an attractive woman on the street. Completely immersed in this strange reality Glazier wished to portray, Johansson drove around the Scottish city, inviting men into her character's van, adlibbing calculated seductions. It feels as real as a documentary, making it all the more chilling.

Once Laura gets a man to agree to come home with her, it’s the beginning of the end for them. Through any door, the two enter into an alternate, inky black reality. With their eyes locked on the stripping woman, the men follow her, dropping their clothes as they take one step after another towards what they think she promises. Instead of catching up to her, they descend into a pool of black plasma until they’re floating beneath the floor. In time, they’re nothing more than skin – their insides sucked out to feed the people of their seductress.

As Under the Skin progresses, Laura experiences moments that shed light on humanity, on vitality and on the concept of self. She’s noticeably affected when she feels the blood of a man pricked by a rose thorn on her hand, when she’s lifted up off the Glasgow street and when she catches a glimpse of herself in the mirror. In the end, the alien’s growing understanding and empathy of the world into which she was dropped weakens her resolve, making her pervious and vulnerable. Glazer's narrowed focus gives believable humanity to the the inhuman, and made a truly unique and enjoyable – albeit dark – movie in the process.

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