I asked a friend of mine just yesterday, “What do you get out of Horror?” He had no concrete answer.
In time, he asked me the same thing. “Because films are art,” I replied. “I like viewing different perspectives; I like to dissect things.” In general, not just with film, my preference with creative endeavors is to indulge in things with “credible” substance (“credible” being subjective, of course). Brainless comedies or action films are fine every so often, but things like The Reflecting Skin are more to my liking, at least from the outset.
Sometimes those subjects with perceived substance end up being fool’s gold.
A Quick and Lazy Summary
Seth is a rambunctious kid whose hobbies include causing trouble and blowing up frogs in people’s faces. (It’s a whole thing.) When you consider the circumstances of his life—subpar home setting, barren fields of crop, not a lot of peers—can you blame him?
After talking with his Pa about the idea of the existence of vampires, Seth immediately suspects his neighbor of being one. His suspicions are only exacerbated when he converses with her in her home, where she explains she’s “over 200 years old” and keeps various remains of her deceased husband in a black box. This kickstarts a serious of increasingly tragic events that will impact Seth’s life forever.
Based on the synopsis, this seems like something of a whimsical, dark picture with an emphasis on visual details. Skimming some reviews on Letterboxd, there’s something of a “unique” vibe to this film, combining cheesiness with sincere acts of tragedy and trauma. Seems like an interesting topic to view, even if it may not be as incredible as others claim.
It ended up being incredibly…
This, more than anything, “ruined” the film for me. But it’s possible that it won’t ruin the film for everyone!
When those reviews I read called this “cheesy,” it was not kidding. I’ve also seen reviews crediting the actors for “great performances,” which I hesitate to agree with (especially the child actors). Some of this could be attributed to the writing, which sounded very “Ye olde Gothic tale”-like in its word choice and atmosphere. I almost would’ve expected this to be based on a Stephen King novel.
I laughed at The Reflecting Skin more times than I laugh at most comedy films. Something about the execution of its writing and performances gives off an incredibly B-movie vibe that takes itself too seriously. This ends up being a shame because there are intriguing elements at play, such as the cinematography (beautiful shots of nature) and the mental deterioration of the child lead. As it is, these more positive elements cannot compete with what is an otherwise very unintentionally funny product.
To provide an example out of context, near the beginning of the film, Seth’s mother complains about everything reeking of “gas and grease,” then continues on a verbal tirade against, well, everything. From that point, it was so easy to make jokes about how every problem within the film is because of all the gas and grease.
A group of teenagers appear a few times throughout the film dressed like they’re right out of Grease. Seth’s father at one point drenches himself in gas, drinking it up and showering himself while moaning. Gas and grease; everything is by the whims of gas and grease.
That’s but one example. Plenty make themselves apparent throughout the 90-minute runtime. Whether it’s bizarre behavior by the characters or the strangely hostile nature of… pretty much everything, it ends up being something of a, by my view, acquired taste.
Look, I am not a genius. Though my attitude may give off the impression of a know-it-all, I try not to give off the impression that I believe myself an incredible mind. It’s entirely possible that I just don’t get it, or that I never gave it enough of a chance to get it. Everything was too absurd near the beginning to allow me to take it seriously… perhaps I should have.
Even outside of that, I think the pacing of the film and its contents are rather erratic. After a certain point, things kind of just happen with little rhyme or reason; by the end, pacing crawled to a screeching halt. With thirty minutes left, I was ready for it to be over. Nothing was sticking with me. Nothing kept me compelled when there was nothing left to laugh at.
Part of this may be its insistence on escalating events to extreme conclusions fairly early on. Let me say this: The Reflecting Skin gets very dark. Technically categorized as “Horror,” it’s more of a pitch-black drama—the most gruesome part, in my opinion, occurs within the first five minutes. Gets people invested early on, then kind of meanders as it throws a lot of “Is it or isn’t it?” scenes that lead to a (very melodramatic) ending.
All this is, again, spiced around with some more interesting bits. Though I take issue with the writing, the atmosphere was consistently intriguing throughout. The central “mystery” of what’s happening and how Seth copes with it is neat to process. Would help if Seth’s actor was not bad, but so be it.
While some see this as an underrated gem full of beautiful visuals, I see it as pretty funny. Maybe not Wicker Man levels of unintentional hilarity, though there’s certainly some very over-the-top situations present. Maybe it would have more value if the potential viewer wasn’t so picky about technical details and realism. That’s probably what prevented me from enjoying it, anyway.
Final Score: 4/10
The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.
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Thank you for your time. Have a great timezone.