A great horror movie makes more of an impression on the psyche than any other kind of film. Hell, even a bad horror flick can scar you for life. There’s a phrase that every seasoned horror fan loves to hear: “Have you ever seen . . . ?” For the next 31 days, John E. Meredith will unearth some of his personal favorites that fell through the cracks, that are not so obvious, the kind that might even sneak up on you while you’re trying to sleep. The Reflecting Skin 1990, UK. Written and directed by Philip Ridley. Starring Jeremy Cooper, Viggo Mortensen, Lindsay Duncan. When most movies depict childhood they are inclined to bathe it in a golden sheen of nostalgia, like it was a time of magical wonderment that we’ve merely forgotten as we got older. The children in these movies are often much smarter than the adults, smirking and cracking wise at the ignorance that apparently only comes with age. Or the pains of growing up are cast in a bittersweet glow, learning how to love and lose and grow, from the nudge-nudge-wink-wink perspective of the wizened old parental figure who has finally figured out what life is all about. But what most movies tend to forget is that sometimes life can seem pretty damn horrific to a child. Sometimes the pain and mystery are there, not as things to be overcome and solved, but merely as what must be endured for reasons we didn’t understand then and still don’t understand now. For many of us life can be explained as an adult explains it to an eight-year old boy in the 1990 film THE REFLECTING SKIN: “Sometimes terrible things happen quite naturally.” Set somewhere in the prairies of the Midwest shortly after World War II, the movie starts out with that familiar we’re-gonna-look-back-fondly glow. There are golden sweeping fields and a soaring musical score as three boys are running across the screen. “Look at this wonderful frog!” one of them exclaims. The boys huddle together over the frog, which seems unusually large, chattering in wonder over the creature’s size and the texture of its skin. Then one of them shoves a straw up the frog’s ass. Blowing the animal up like a balloon, they carefully place it in the path of an approaching woman in black, then dive behind some brush to wait. As soon as she gets close enough, leaning down to peer at the strange bloated croaking, Seth takes aim with his slingshot and lets fly a perfectly-timed shot. The woman is splattered in frog blood and guts. Of course, even this could be sickly funny. Maybe we find out that the woman is some dire bitch of a second-grade teacher who deserves to be terrorized by a couple of her students. Or, because of his awful prank, Seth’s mother makes him go apologize to the woman, with whom he ultimately forges some great friendship that teaches him about . . . forgiveness, or something. But no. Seth’s mother, who is hysterical and on the edge of madness, does make him go apologize to the woman. He sits in a room full of shark jaws, whale bones, and other various fish mounted to the walls, holding a harpoon the woman has given to him, while she tells him that her husband hung himself in the barn a week after they were married. She goes on inexplicably for a while, busting out a box of keepsakes that includes some of her hubby’s hair and teeth. The woman is sobbing and reaching for Seth, quite desperately, when he bolts the hell out of her house. So much for one of those movies where the parents are terrible but some quirky outsider character ends up being the loving parental figure. Seth is convinced that the woman is a vampire, like the ones in the paperback book his more quietly disturbed father sits reading outside the family-owned gas station. It almost seems like a possibility when his friends start showing up dead, bloated, floating in the well behind the house. The supernatural feels like the only answer to the things Seth sees around him (and it’s not like anyone else is even capable of shining a light on anything). When he finds the crusty corpse of an infant in an old barn, he thinks that it’s an angel and stashes it in a box under his bed so he can talk to it at night. There’s a shark-like black Cadillac circling these back roads as well, with four greasers inside who seem far too interested in the local children. The only member of law enforcement in the movie is of no help either; some kind of strange cowboy with an eyepatch who seems convinced that Seth’s father has something to do with the dead kids. Then Dad calmly walks outside, douses himself in gasoline, and sets himself on fire while his son watches. Seth’s brother, Viggo Mortensen, shows up after being stationed in Japan for most of the war. His return is nearly heroic for Seth and their increasingly loony mother, and the viewer is tempted to believe that he’s going to be the movie’s savior. He seems to present the most hope at first, even though he’s going on about the beautiful explosions he saw and the photo of a Japanese baby whose skin has turned silver because of the radiation. But then he starts spending all of his time with the vampire lady. It’s not long before he’s coughing up blood, losing weight, and his hair is falling out. All of it could only mean that his brother has become a vampire now too. Meanwhile, the black Cadillac continues to circle the houses of the last remaining children, getting ever closer and closer. The movie ends with a deeply felt scream that is the closest we’re going to get to a catharsis here. There are no definitive answers to be found for anything, not among the adults and certainly not for Seth. There are only horrible implications, which is probably how he comes to see life. Someone might wonder why the hell they would ever want to watch a movie like this. Honestly, not everyone would. But, for those with the right twisted temperament, it is a beautifully filmed, poetic holler in the dark that will haunt you for a while. It’s for those of us who understand that sometimes terrible things happen quite naturally. See larger image The Reflecting Skin First Time on DVD in U.S. Seth is a mischievous eight-year-old growing up in the harsh realities of 1950’s rural Idaho. He lives at home with his strict mother and guilt-ridden father, helping at the family gas station and waiting for his brother, Cameron (Viggo Mortensen, The Road), to return from the Pacific. But his whole world changes the day he decides the widowed neighbor woman, Dolphin Blue (Lindsay Duncan, TV’s Rome), is a vampire. Inspired by his father’s stories, Seth begins to believe that she is responsible for the terrible events happening around him. His obsession continues to grow when Cameron comes home…and falls head over heels for his worst enemy. New From: $39.99 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.