There’s nothing quite like The Reflecting Skin. Dancing between genres (horror, fantasy, dark comedy, coming of age tale), Philip Ridley’s debut is a bewitching nightmare of Americana, with its shockingly yellow cornfields, bright blue skies and jet black Cadillacs abducting young boys.
The film has long been available only on poor transfers of terrible prints, so thank heavens for Soda Pictures, which has restored the film to its former glory.
Near the end of World War II, the Dove family waits for their eldest son Cameron (Viggo Mortensen) to return from the Pacific. There’s a darkness bubbling under the farmland where they live, as young Seth (Jeremy Cooper) discovers as his friends start disappearing.
Is his neighbour and self-proclaimed vampire Dolphin Blue (Lindsay Duncan) to blame? Or is there a darkness inside Seth?
This restoration Blu-ray makes it clear just how spectacular Dick Pope’s cinematography is, bringing Ridley’s painterly vision to stunning life. Ridley’s gift for blurring the lines between dark fairytale and real horror is truly special, presenting this strange, dangerous world through the eyes of his unreliable protagonist.
In this place there’s every chance that angels and monsters are real. Adults are angry, guilt-ridden and wilfully blind, and death is always just around the corner, whether it’s by murder, spectacular self-immolation, or undiagnosed radiation poisoning.
The only one who might understand is Dolphin, a British woman left stranded by the sudden death of her American husband, but she leaves Seth convinced that she is a monster.
A pre-fame Mortensen impresses as the taciturn returned veteran whose attempts to move on with his life are doomed, but it’s Duncan’s performance that lingers, dancing between tragedy and cruelty as she spells out the harsh facts of life for Seth.
“It’s all so horrible. The agony of childhood. And it only gets worse.”
The superb features on the Blu-ray include documentaries on the film and Ridley, early short films and an excellent commentary. This is an essential purchase for any genre fan.
You can buy The Reflecting Skin on Blu-ray from Zavvi here.