The movie follows this woman played by Scarlett Johansson as she drives around Scotland asking people for directions. She occasionally picks up people and talks to them. If there is someone waiting for them, she’ll drop them off and go on her way. But if nobody is waiting, she’ll seduce them and take them to this house where they fall into this semi-liquid floor. They float in this fluid for some time until they burst and their juices are sucked away, or something.
Scarlett Johansson isn’t alone. There are these guys on motorcycles who follow her around and clean up anything left over.
Eventually, she picks up a guy with a deformity and takes him to the building, but then she has second thoughts and helps him escape. But one of the motorcycle guys finds him.
She drives off to escape, and runs into a guy who helps her. They start to have sex, but then she jumps up and is confused by how that works. She runs off into the woods and takes shelter in a cabin. This logger finds her and tries to rape her, but at one point her skin rips revealing a black, leathery alien. The logger runs back to his truck and returns with a gas can, dumps it on her, and burns her alive.
About a third of the movie is Scarlett Johansson driving around trying to find people. About another third is her walking around seemingly unaware of what anything is. The other third is about what I described.
There are some good parts to this movie. For example, when the guy is trying to rape her, as he’s tearing her clothes off he’s chewing gum and has an expression most people have while cutting their fingernails. It’s very disturbing, as it should be. Also, the motorcycle guys have this stiff limbed movement, like they don’t know how elbows and knees work. Which is a very subtle way of showing that they’re alien.
However, I do have some issues with this movie. For example, the motorcycle guys move weird, but Scarlett Johansson – which one would assume is of the same species – walks like a normal human woman. And half the time she has this dead expression as she looks around at things as if she’s never seen them before and has no understanding of what they are. She’s an alien, so that makes sense. But then she’s driving a van around Scotland, stopping every now and then to roll the window down to smile and say, “Excuse me, I’m lost. I’m looking for wherever.” Either she passes for a human, or she doesn’t. Pick one.
And the guy that helps her, they meet on a bus, he takes her home, cooks her a meal, and the next day they walk in the countryside and visit a castle. Then it’s later that night they start making out. This is maybe ten minutes or so of film time. And in that time, I don’t think she says five words to him. This gives one an odd, unsettling feeling, which is probably the point of the film, but at the same time it just doesn’t make sense.
Overall, I think the movie is too artsy-fartsy for its own good. It’s like you can have this really interesting science fiction movie, or you can have a movie where you need to have a goatee and drink tiny espressos to fully “understand” the film. It’s really difficult to blend the two, and Under the Skin doesn’t make it.