Crime, Drama, Thriller

The Reflecting Skin (1990)

Comments Off on The Reflecting Skin (1990) 24 January 2012

Studio: Echo Bridge Entertainment/Miramax

Theatrical Release: June 28, 1991

DVD Release: December 13, 2011


Review by James Klein

This peculiar Canadian film (there are a  few “aboot” ‘s that slip out of some of the performers) feels very much like a David Lynch meets John Hughes movie. The Reflecting Skin may be the most bizarre coming-of-age films I have ever seen. It’s so unusual that one can’t help but be captivated by what is going on with these weird characters.

Set in the 1950’s in a small rural farm country in Idaho, The Reflecting Skin starts off with introducing us to young Seth, who with the help of some friends find a frog and blow air in its butthole to make him extremely bloated. While a lady walks down the street and sees this fat frog flaying its arms about, Seth shoots his sling shot and hits the frog, making it explode with all its red gore splashing onto the lady. Right away, we are thrust into Seth’s world and for 96 minutes, we are stuck with him.

Seth lives with his wimpy father and insane mom at a gas station that is one step away from being a junkyard. Seth’s father tells him that he is reading a pulp book about vampires and Seth believes that the English woman who lives all alone in her secluded home is a vampire. When he goes to her home to apologize for a prank he pulled, she graciously gives him a huge whale harpoon and tells him stories of her dead husband who she misses. She tells him that she is over 200 years old which just re-enforces Seth’s opinion on this woman and who she is. When some of the children of the town begin to show up dead, the police question Seth’s father who then lights himself on fire, killing himself. When Seth’s much older brother (played by a young Viggo Mortensen) comes home to take care of the family after serving in the war, the bodies continue to pile up while Seth’s brother falls for the English woman who Seth believes is out to drink his brother’s blood.

The Reflecting Skin is a dark film, no question. But there are certain touches of black comedy and absurd situations that just made me laugh. When Seth finds a baby fetus and believes it is one of his dead friends re-incarnated as a fallen angel thus taking it home to sleep with, I just sat there on my couch with my jaw wide open. Not only did my stomach flip flop but I started to laugh at how over the top and nuts this film is. The funny thing is that part of me believes Seth is out of his mind, much like his mother. But the other half of me believes he may be right in his actions and thoughts.

I will say the film does have some strikes against it. Philip Ridley’s direction is bland and while I enjoyed his script, the film had a plain and dull look to it. I also wasn’t impressed with the star who played Seth, Jeremy Cooper. Cooper doesn’t show much range at all and it always seems as if he’s about to laugh during his dramatic moments. His facial expression rarely changes throughout the film which is a shame since his character is not only freaky and strange but integral to the storyline. During his climatic moment, I laughed at his performance. I almost felt embarrassed for the kid.

Echo Bridge advertises that this is the first time The Reflecting Skin is available on DVD. While it is great that they got the rights to this movie, it is in full screen and not formatted to fit wide screen televisions. Even the picture quality is barely a step up from VHS. I will say though that if you can find the DVD for a cheap price, it may be worth checking out if you are in the mood for something strange.

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