Beyond the Artifice, Lies your True Self...
Writer/director Elcid Asaei's 15-minute short film Unskin certainly isn't for everyone.
An experimental short film weaving together elements of contemporary physical theatre with such cinematic genres as sci-fi/fantasy, mystery, horror, and urban mythology, Unskin isn't really aiming for anything resembling a traditional narrative structure and I'd dare say you won't find yourself overly involved in its unique framework and storytelling.
It's not so much compelling as it is intriguing.
Divided into four acts, Unskin aims high and refuses to compromise. While this often works to the film's advantage, one can't help but think the film's oversized ambition is hindered by the relatively slight running time and presence of big ideas that seemingly float across the screen with barely enough time to really land.
However, this is clearly an artistic choice that Asaei has made and even in its weakest moments Unskin is an incredibly intriguing film to watch unfold.
The story, at least as it exists, begins with Roger (Roger Carvalho) in something resembling an employment interview sitting opposite Jack (Stephen T. Box). There's a tension in the air, though we don't necessarily understand why. Roger, it would seem, is more than a little bit of a rebel existing within a system that has seemingly become increasingly unwilling to tolerate types like Roger. Amidst an approach to the interview that resembles ethereal storytelling, Roger unleashes a godlike alter-ego named Unskin, an alter-ego that haunts the urban landscape and seeks out alienated, morally corrupt mortals to transform them from division to unity utilizing metamorphosis.
Does it sound strange? It is. The urban landscape is haunting in its Gotham-like presence and as a being Unskin resembles something you might expect in an indie horror project. There's an ominous, almost suffocating tone to the film and you can't help but feel like something tragic is always around the corner.
The film's ensemble work is quite effective, immersed within the world that Asaei has created and seemingly at one with it. Original music by Hai Saint enhances the film's force, while Anton Smari Gunnarsson's lensing is unsettling and enveloping.
Unskin isn't a bad film. In fact, quite the opposite. It is, however, a film that aims so high that I couldn't help but feel a little underwhelmed with the final result. I wanted a great, groundbreaking film and I ended up with a decent, surprisingly predictable one. However, it will prove to be an interesting, challenging view for those who can appreciate intellect-centered, experimental cinema and who are willing to invest themselves in Asaei's unique, inspired journey.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic