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I’d like to take a moment to comment on the title.  What is The Reflecting Skin?  Why “reflecting”?  Taken literally, the reflecting skin could represent the silver skin on the baby in the photo from Vietnam.  However, I am doubting that small part of the movie would account for its name.  There are other discussions that the reflecting skin represents the dichotomy between good and evil- and how our selves reflect one or the other.  Or, perhaps this has to do with the black and white themes in the film.  Dolphin blue is almost always in black.  When she is found dead, she is wearing white.  This scene actually reminded me of the finale in Cruel Intentions, where Ryan Phillippe is dressed in solid black, and Reese Witherspoonis in clad white.  At any rate, I believe that it is definitely not clear as to why Ridley used this title. 

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The Reflecting Skin

Directed by: Philip Ridley

RS: Not Rated Average User Rating: 3.5 of 4 Stars

1991 Horror

More information from

It’s not your average vampire movie; this one’s got aspirations. Philip Ridley, the British painter-illustrator-novelist who turned screenwriter with the mesmerizing 1990 gangster film The Krays, debuts as a director with a perversely alluring work he describes as “Blue Velvet with children.” Ridley’s script revolves around Seth Dove (a superb Jeremy Cooper), an eight-year-old growing up in the Fifties on the Idaho prairie (the film was shot in Canada). Seth’s mother, Ruth (Sheila Moore), is strict with him, doting only on her older son, Cameron (Viggo Mortensen), a soldier on an atomic-testing mission in the Pacific. Ruth barely tolerates her husband, Luke (Duncan Fraser), a mechanic shamed by a past scandal in which the local sheriff found him and an underage boy “in full embrace.”Luke reads pulp novels, one with a cover illustration of a woman vampire that the impressionable Seth thinks is their English neighbor, Dolphin Blue (the smashing Lindsay Duncan). Dolphin’s been a recluse since her husband’s suicide. But when Seth and his pals — Eben (Codie Lucas Wilbee) and Kim (Evan Hall) — play a nasty trick on Dolphin, Ruth forces Seth to apologize. Dolphin’s house, filled with whaling gear, fascinates Seth. Later, he watches her masturbate.

Seth’s sexual fears are soon heightened by violence. Eben is found drowned. When Luke is accused, he torches himself. Then Kim is murdered. Seth has seen four men driving around in a black Caddy, but he suspects only Dolphin, who has now taken up with his brother, home for their father’s funeral. Some of this arty Freudian posturing about a boy’s head-on collision with sex, sin and death is ponderous. But Ridley is a visionary, and his haunting film, luminously shot by Dick Pope, exerts a hypnotic pull. Through a child’s eyes, Ridley confronts us with our own primal fear of the dark.

PETER TRAVERS

Read the article from Rolling Stone online here

If you browse a “Reflecting Skin” Google search, you may come across folks who list this film as the “worst movie ever”.  I’ll be frank and say that I can see where they are coming from.  The movie’s strangeness and uncertainty can put people off.  However, I would say that anything on the extreme has a lot of creative potential.  Meaning, there is a reason why people judge this film to be the worst.  First off, they obviously remembered the film enough to add it to the list.  Secondly, they probably remember several scenes in order to retell their “worst place” reasoning to others.  And lastly, as with the political spectrum, anything that is extreme left is encroaching on extreme right (with political viewpoints as being in a circle).  Therefore, the “worst” movies are easily the “best” movies in someone else’s book.

twins.jpgWas anyone else *really* creeped out by the twins toward the beginning of the film?  You know, the cackling ones that carried a dead bird.  How could you miss them?  Well, the first time I saw The Reflecting Skin, the twins were the biggest anomaly to me.  I dove into discussions about what the twins meant… but alas I was not able to unearth much.  After another Google search, I still was not able to find commentary on these gals.  So, if anyone has thoughts on what they represent in the film, please post!  Or- perhaps you have found discussion elsewhere… 

Thanks!

Londonite Philip Ridley is the writer and director of The Reflecting Skin, which won 11 international awards.  Here are those awards:

  1. creepiest
  2. best fetus
  3. most unvampire-like vampire
  4. worst title
  5. best exploding toad scene
  6. best cackling twins
  7. best worst use of water
  8. best worst use of gasoline
  9. strangest Viggo love scene
  10. most unlikely Vietnam war tie-in
  11. most Lynch-like

There you have it, folks.  The 11 international awards.

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Even Ridley would be proud.

They say that if you like David Lynch, then you will like The Reflecting Skin.  It even says so on the VHS box.  However, is this really true?  Sure, the RefSk has many strange moments… bad music, and creepy characters- all characteristics of David Lynch films.  However, does the movie really have what it takes to qualify as Lynch worthy?

Case in point one: David Lynch often portrays life in a small town (Twin Peaks, Straight Story… there are more).  The Reflecting Skin also takes place in a small town.  Check one, Reflecting Skin.

Case in point two: While David Lynch is often off the deep end on the “strangeness factor,” The Reflecting Skin has drowned in it.  There is almost no way to completely figure out The Reflecting Skin.  No context clues, no foreshadowing, nadda.  Its nice to be able to somewhat understand the hidden meaning.  Check one, Lynch.

Case in point three: there is no midget dancing in The Red Room in The Reflecting Skin.  Check two, Lynch.

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Ok, so maybe that wasn’t as fair as it could have been.  The ticker on the VHS cover is right… if you like David Lynch, then you’ll like The Reflecting Skin.  True.  However, as we have seen, in a face off, Lynch will win every time.

This fall I watched the TV series Rome.  I plowed through the eposides through my Netflix subscription.  Now, after watching The Reflecting Skin again, I am suprised to see Lindsay Duncan (aka Servilia of the Junii) as Dolphin Blue.  I hadn’t remembered that she was in this movie.  Ah, and don’t forget Lindsay’s Under the Tuscan Sun performance.  This was actually my favorite part of hers.  If you haven’t seen Tuscan, I would highly recommend it…Of course, I was also suprised to see Viggo Mortensen (aka Aragorn from LOTR).  Actually, the last I saw of Viggo was in Eastern Promises.  I did like this film, however it was a little violent.  I seem to remember Viggo in a naked steam room fight scene.  Too far?  Perhaps. viggo23refsk.jpgAt any rate, it was fun to connect the RefSk with other films I have seen lately.  Lindsay didnt seem to age, and Viggo looks like a pup in this movie!

My first experience with The Reflecting Skin was in 1999.  I was drawn to it at the movie store because of its claimed “David Lynch” watch-alike.  What I discovered was beyond other Lynch films that I have viewed, and flung me into a whole new territory.  Meaning, nothing made sense.  In ’99, I searched for answers with my dial-up modem, with little avail.  Now, I am ready to tackle this film head-on.  Through this blog I hope to spark conversation and search for answers to this film.  On that note, off to the movie I go!