Unskin has the skeleton of a possibly provocative story, but in its current form it’s ultimately too few parts thrown too tightly together.
(This review of Unskin contains spoilers, of course. What else is to be done with a short film?)
Written and directed by Elcid Asaei of Crimson Black Productions, with choreography by Konstantina Skalionta, Unskin calls to mind better memories of a film with a similar title (Soderbergh’s Unsane) and another film with better-executed themes (Glazer’s Under the Skin). These evocations, however, whether intentional or inadvertent, do the film no favours, but then perhaps it is unfair to place a short film next to those of feature-length for comparison.
Still, Unskin has other things working against it while standing all on its own. In the words of its press release, the film is about “Roger Piper, a quiet yet rebellious agent of positive change in the dysfunctional setting of the film, whose superpower is to unleash through his storytelling a godlike alter-ego named ‘UNSKIN’.” What this means for the film is that it is over-stuffed with gestures but is thin on coherent storytelling.
We begin the film in the middle of an interview, where both interviewer and interviewee seem strange. Roger is the one being interviewed, but we notice his resume does not resemble the usual resumes of interviewees more human. The interviewer asks Roger a series of questions until he eventually asks Roger what he has spent his last few years doing. Roger, in atypical fashion, begins to tell a story instead.
Here follows the heart of the short film, the story that Roger tells. While we are meant to be engaged, we merely see the Unskin creature and the aforementioned gestures, including a dance number, without the benefit of much context. When we again return to the interview, Roger Piper makes some assertions and poses a few questions himself. For whatever reason, at this point, the Unskin creature appears in the present. Roger then walks out of the office door as if he has achieved some fantastic feat.
As somewhat suggested at the end of the film with the others waiting to be interviewed seeming to be without individuality, the press release tells us that this film is about “alienated and morally corrupt mortals” and “a metamorphosis that sheds their artificial masks and transcends them from division to unity.” But we are left with more questions than answers, and not in a good way. We are lead to ask: “Alienated and morally corrupt? Are we not all different, even in the minutest of ways? And do not these differences have a tendency to eventually inform the creation of many of the great things that have provided for our continued existence as a species?” Yes, we are all different in certain ways, and truly no good could come from such a forced, inhuman unity as the film seems to propose.
In brief, Unskin is far too short to adequately explore its stated themes. Should someone see the film and finance it for full-feature development, they are urged to flesh out the concept and allow the story to breathe. The resultant film would perhaps then be a film we could hardily recommend.