Saturday, 3 September 2011

REVIEW: The Skin I Live In

Antonio Banderas reunites with director Pedro Almodovar for this Spanish psychological thriller.

The premise is not unlike the recent barage of torture porn films churned out by Hollywood. As such, we have a helpless victim held captive by a psychopath and put through unthinkable torment. However, this is an Almodovar film and therefore it is very different in terms of both style and tone to a Saw or a Hostel feature.

For starters, the film is very bright: both well-lit and full of colour. Their is even a bizarre few scenes when one of the characters is dressed like a carnival tiger. It is a bit of a strange observation but you would expect most horrors of this nature to have a pitch-black palette, set in dank warehouses or dungeons.

It is also very clean. There are no flying body parts or torture devices. The victim is actually put through very little physical pain. Their suffering is very gradual, systematic and executed with patience over several years. Natually, all of this makes it even more terrifying. Their suffering is prolonged and inescapable, making Antonio Banderas' obsessive plastic surgeon an even more fearful nemesis than Jigsaw.

And standing ovation for Antonio Banderas. After making it in Hollywood, he has starred in over-the-top action flicks, the Spy Kids films and now he even voices an animated cat. So it is great to see him return to a serious role, especially one as dark as this. Banderas has never been so unnerving.

Lastly, no review for The Skin I Live In can end without at least one mention of the twist. It occurs halfway through the film via a series of flashbacks and really up-ends everything you have seen in the first act of the film. The twist is truly haunting (easily the Twist Of The Year) and will stay with you for days afterwards. As such, this film is certainly not for the typical gore-hungry horror fan. But repeat viewings will be rewarded for those interested in looking for subtle clues foreshdowing the big reveal.

In short, The Skin I Live In is further proof that Spanish film-makers own the patent to psychological, character-driven horror. Espantoso!


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