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Skin Walker | Review

The Skin I Don’t Live In: Neuman Prepares a Fractured Affair in Disjointed Debut

Christian Neuman Skin Walker ReviewAll the technical elements of a creepy genre film are evident in Skin Walker, the directorial debut of Christian Neuman. A Luxembourgian/Belgian co-production, which benefits the film’s off-kilter Euro menace, industrial grunge vs. woodland isolation assist in concocting a tale of madness for its troubled heroine, whose past comes back to haunt her in unexpected ways. Utilizing a variety of narrative elements to piece together the events of the past informing the present eventually melts the film’s uneasy characteristics into something non-cohesive and much less interesting than its disparate parts otherwise suggest.

Regine (Amber Anderson) is a beautiful young woman who attends neon-lit nightclubs with her beau and languishes in a dank industrial plant by day. After finishing a shift, a stranger named Robert (Jefferson Hall) shows up at her apartment. He announces he’s the father of her younger brother, a child who died as an infant. But Robert believes her brother Isaac is still alive and also happens to have just killed her grandmother (Marja-Leena Junker). In short, Regine should come home. But first, she visits her mother (Sophie Mousel), who has been living in a mental institution. Regine arrives at her childhood estate, but her father Claus (Udo Kier) seems rather uninviting. As days pass, Regine begins to experience flashbacks of her current life and her childhood, and it appears her memory may not be what it used to be.

Another tale of a protagonist returning to her childhood home (which Thomas Wolfe perhaps should have phrased one “shouldn’t” rather than “can’t” go home again) to rehash significant trauma and dysfunction, DP Amandine Klee makes excellent use of the Luxembourg and Belgian locales. Even some of the film’s editing choices work in its favor, but an increasing dependence on fluctuating, evolving flashbacks, although establishing Regine’s mental state as suspect, makes for a muddled hodgepodge which derails the tension of what is or isn’t going on at home with Udo Kier.

As for Kier, who provides his peculiar brand of acting which works quite well with bizarre narratives of mental imbalance and discord, fans of the German cult icon won’t necessarily be disappointed. Apologies to a ferret and an animal carving scene which recalls the anguish of Joan Crawford vs. George Kennedy in William Castle’s Strait-Jacket (1964) play quite effectively.

Although Amber Anderson feels left adrift by Neuman’s direction and a third act creature sails this into Brothers Grimm. territory, she’s a striking presence and turns in a performance which deserves a better coffin. A title referring to the term for a shape shifting witch from the Navajo seems a bit misleading based on what Neuman’s put together.


Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2021: France (Bruno Dumont), Passing (Rebecca Hall) and Nightmare Alley (Guillermo Del Toro). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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