17th Nov2020

‘Evil Under the Skin’ DVD Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Helene Udy, Angela Barajas, Pamela Sutch, Colton Baumgartner, Donna Hamblin, Carl Bailey, Tim O’Hearn | Written by Luc Bernier | Directed by Jeffrey Schneider

Evil Under the Skin tells the story of mother and daughter Sophie (Helen Udy) and Roselee (Angela Banjaras) who are holidaying in a lakeside cabin in Oregon in order to get over their recent issues and to get some family bonding in. Well if you count swimming in a lake by day and getting sh*t-faced on shots at night!

Their break is interrupted not only by a creepy brother and sister duo who – if we weren’t told were brother and sister you’d think they were lovers. Yes, even idyllic Oregon has backwoods incest folks, right there on your TV screen(!) – but also by mum Sophie’s apparent mental breakdown. A severe mental breakdown… like, dangerous to be around breakdown.

Also a mental breakdown that means LITERALLY nothing this film has to, or does (at times) make any sense. Some might call it Lynchian, some might say its just a mess… Which is which is definitely in the eye of the beholder for most of this films running time. And if I add that melodramatic music overplaying an overly-long shot pop Helene Udy just sat on a log that goes on and on and on, sums up all you need to know about the tone of this film – and whether it’s for you or not!

The story here is one that could’ve been told in half the time but is padded out to extremes by director Jeffrey Schneider – long shots like the aforementioned, tons of aerial shots of the cloudy blue sky, drone shots of the lakes of Oregon, even Udy asleep in bed… I could go on and on. Hell, even what should be short, sharp shocks, are dragged out for far too long.

The fact the camera lingers on everything was probably supposed to be some sort of meaningful discussion on the male gaze – after all actress Angela Barajas spends most of her time either in skimpy outfits or running round topless – but it becomes laughable after the umpteenth drawn out scene underscored with over-the-top, overwrought music!

Eventually, after what seems like three hours but is in fact less than half that time, Evil Under the Skin reveals what’s going on. Yes you guessed it. Roselee is dead, at the hands of her abusive boyfriend, who Sophie killed in retaliation. Sophie is clearly having an episode post-trauma and pretty much the entire film is a figment of her imagination. The most depressing thing is that the film ends with Sophie realising that very thing… And then realises something more… Something abut why the upstairs bedroom is locked. You can probably figure that out for yourself too.

I’m not sure what writer Luc Bernier and director Jeffrey Schneider were aiming for with Evil Under the Skin. If it was a terrifying journey into a psychological breakdown, or a meaningful discourse on loss, then they missed the mark by a long shot. But if a totally insane, almost unexplainable, incomprehensible vision of what its like to actually be IN a mental episode? Then it’s definitely on-the-nose!

Evil Under the Skin is out now on DVD, in the US, from Midnight Releasing.

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