The Reflecting Skins was originally going to be called American Gothic which would have succinctly summed-up what to expect from Philip Ridley’s film. It possesses all the strangeness, mystery and surreal elements you’d expect from that title but also the rural American backdrops and sensibility. The beautiful sun-drenched corn fields are counterpointed against the inner darkness of the characters and the disturbing events which unfold.
Set in rural Idaho in the 1950s, Seth (Jeremy Cooper) leads a very sheltered and repressed childhood. His father’s (Duncan Fraser) repressed homosexuality and shame renders him disconnected and distant. His mother (Sheila Moore) is a domineering religious zealot who takes out her inner-torment on Seth. He spends his time playing (which often involves killing animals) until the arrival of a mysterious black Cadillac coincides with his friends being murdered, one by one. His brother Cameron (Viggo Mortensen) returns from war and falls for the mysterious Widow Dolphin Blue (Lindsay Duncan) who Seth believes to be a vampire,
The Reflecting Skin is an incredibly strange film which is impossible to bracket into a single genre. The nearest compariosn would be that of Lynch’s Twin Peaks are Blue Velvet, but the similarities are only tenuous. There’s a feeling of unworldliness throughout which is only heightened by an impressive performance by Jeremy Cooper. He’s the embodiment of quiet menace and the disturbed result of his unorthodox upbringing. It looks incredible, with brilliant cinematography from Dick Pope, and is accompanied by a superb soundtrack from Nick Bicât. The Reflecting Skin is an incredibly visceral film which deserves to gain a cult following with a whole new generation. The grotesque meets the Gothic is beautiful solemnity.
The Reflecting Skin is released on Blu-ray by Soda Pictures on Monday.