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First Look Review - EVIL UNDER THE SKIN

evil under the skin review
A mother and daughter encounter trouble while staying in a remote cabin.


Review by Sue Finn

Directed by: Jeff Schneider

Starring: Helene Udy, Carl Bailey, Tim O'Hearn, Donna Hamblin, Angela Barajas

evil under the skin poster





"The saddest thing about betrayal is that it never comes from your enemies." So says the somewhat poignant screen quote at the beginning of this film. I’d say the saddest thing about this film is that the screen quote is the best thing in it.

Opening on a lake bathed with over-exposed sunlight, we are treated to the inescapable soundtrack that recalls a high school piano recital performance, sets an odd tone, and is used liberally throughout the duration of the movie.

Mother Sophie (Helene Udy – tries her best) and daughter Rosalie (Angela Barajas – wooden) are staying in a cabin by the lake for a bonding week away from civilisation. We learn they’ve had some issues with an ex boyfriend of Rosalie’s coming between them, but they seem to be getting along just fine that night as they play drinking games and laugh. It's just marred slightly by the fact that mum is off her meds and is now troubled by trances where she has bloody and strange visions. Also, the fact that Rosalie sits around the house topless.

evil under the skin review

Elsewhere, incestuous Siblings Matt and Carla, seemingly straight from Deliverance territory and with nefarious sexual plans for Sophie, talk of noises and screams coming from the house mother and daughter are staying in.

Carla stalks Sophie as she takes nature photos in the woods, and then conveniently bumps into her right there in the forest. There’s an almost comical silent movie over-exaggerated “oh hey” moment between the two women, overlaid of course with that piano hell-music. The siblings offer her a lift but when Sophie gets in the car they don’t actually go anywhere, they just interrogate her about where she lives and who’s with her. Matt is super excited that she has a daughter and leers in a moustache-twirling, pervy manner that anyone would make anyone uncomfortable, but Sophie doesn’t even seem to notice, which is not in any way believable.

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Matt invites himself around for a barbecue at the house, which is the epitome of rude and entitled, but of course Sophie says her daughter would love that.

They fill Sophie’s head with nonsense to make her off kilter (for some unknown reason) before she gets back out the car saying she will walk instead. Her mental breakdown is expressed by showing her sitting on a log looking confusedly into the distance, hands at mouth, for an inordinately long amount of time.

evil under the skin review

Back at home Sophie feels better after a nap and time with Rosalie. “I’m gunna get out of these old clothes,” says Rosalie, dressed only in a robe and bathers, “I smell like guano and old cheeseburgers.” She asks her mom to turn the shower on for her (which is not a thing) and then she has a 40 second shower before standing naked and discussing her childhood with her mum for a good five minutes.

Meanwhile Sheriff Roy and Park Ranger Jenny are investigating them because of reports of screams and gunshots a few nights previous.

Is Sophie losing her mind? What is behind the locked door of the cabin? What do her visions mean? And will Rosalie ever discover clothes?

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The answer, when it comes, is actually reasonably surprising and a decent twist. It’s a shame a lot of the film leading to it is not very good.

Firstly, the direction by Jeffrey Schneider is frankly, strange. He clearly favours aerial shots or shots of lonesome skies, but these are used ad nauseum to pad out a lacking script and to make what should have a been a short film, feature length. There are scenes of dialogue between mother and daughter where the angles chosen to film these moments are just bizarre.

evil under the skin review

The entire film is accompanied by that underwhelming score and the film quality is that of a home video with the saturation too high.
Stretched beyond belief, there is one shot that is literally Rosalie standing in the doorway and then looking at her mum, and then looking back at the doorway, and then looking back at mum etc for two very, very long minutes.

Carl Bailey, who plays Roy, delivers a monologue that is better than this film deserves, but the acting is pretty hit and miss across the board with Tim O’Hearn struggling to make “Hi, I’m Matt” sound natural.

And for Pete’s sake, filmmakers need to stop with the assumption that women relax by taking their clothes off (particularly in the company of their mother). Women relax the same as men do, by putting on track pants and a sloppy top and watching TV; this idea that we are seductively sitting around topless is just ridiculous.

A swing and a miss.

Evil Under the Skin is on US DVD/VOD now. A UK/ROI release has yet to be announced.




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