Saturday, December 30, 2017

Vamp or Not? Replace

Replace is a 2017 body horror directed by Norbert Keil and after vacillating between this article or just outright declaring vampire and reviewing the film I decided to run with the ‘Vamp or Not?’ because I want to explain my motivation for classing this as part of the genre .

It is kind of difficult, sometimes, to watch a film and know that, whether consciously or otherwise, the filmmakers have essentially took the core strictures of the genre and built something with it. You then suggest it might well fall into the vampire camp and people nod in that way that suggests they believe you are mad/obsessed/both.

opening corridor scene
The underlying genre aspect reared its head right from the beginning. Having seen a female figure, Kira Mabon (Rebecca Forsythe), silhouetted in a corridor, clearly blood on the plastic backdrop, we hear her speak. She states that she doesn’t want to grow old, she remonstrates that she needs *more* (though not what of). There is a Báthory-esque element to this, and it ties the film instantly to a certain sub-stratum of the genre. We then see her with Jonas (Sean Knopp), their conversation set around the gender politics of aging, they go back to his place and she strips…

the strange skin condition
In the morning she awakens and he is not there. She leaves to walk home, ringing a friend who hangs up on her (given what we discover, it isn’t clear who she is speaking to). She finds herself back at his apartment but somehow she has the keys and, as she moves around the apartment, we realise it is actually her apartment. She washes her hand and notices that the skin has become white and flaking. She has an hallucinatory flash where she sees a child.

Rebecca Forsythe as Kyra
She finds a photo of her and Jonas and notices that the skin condition has spread to two fingers. The skin rips to raw flesh beneath. There is a knock at the door. She looks through the spy hole and sees two elderly ladies and then she collapses in pain. By the time she opens the door they have gone but a neighbour, Sophia (Lucie Aron), appears and catches her as she collapses again. In the flat Sophia suggests that they had not met before but she moved in a few months previously and had been hoping to meet Kira. She does not recall Jonas at all. They have a drink and a glass is broken, ripping some of Sophia’s skin. Kira takes it and places it over her flaking skin and it seems to absorb, replacing the small patch of flaking skin it touched.

creepy doctor in creepy clinic
So, as things progress kira goes to a clinic to see a doctor, Crober (Barbara Crampton), who suggests that she has been treating her for some time (in her really creepy, black and red décor clinic). Kira has complained about memory loss previously. Crober gives her a script for pain relief whilst she does tests (though the pharmacist suggests it is for a cell rejuvenator). Overnight the condition spreads and she goes to a less salubrious hospital – but the doctor is of no use. She sneaks into the morgue and cuts skin from a corpse but it does not absorb – she is nearly caught.

Lucie Aron as Sophia
She goes to a bar and, at the end of the night when she is the only customer, she follows the barmaid into a cellar area and attacks her. She stabs the woman in the neck and cuts the skin from her and this takes, curing the spreading decay. What we then discover is that she seems to be suffering from a cellular degeneration of the skin cells, which are ageing and dying rapidly. To cure this she murders, to take the skin and layer it over her own. So in the vampiric sense she is maintaining youth but, rather than bathing in blood ala Báthory, she is stealing skin but she is murdering in order to do so.

hallucinating what should be
The further twist (and so spoiler) is that the creepy surgery is behind all of this as Kira was an elderly woman who was prepared to do anything to regain her youth and (amongst others) volunteered for experimental (and obviously dangerous) treatment. The visions she has are resurfacing memories of her old life, of her husband before he left her for a younger woman, of her daughter as a little girl. At one point she hallucinates her reflection as she should be, a nice twist on mirror-lore. The ability to regenerate herself with someone else’s skin is an unexpected side-effect of the treatment but ultimately we can say she was created by science.

a victim for later use
In the end, whilst the modus operandi is stealing skin, this takes the Báthory trope and plays with it. The desperate attempt to maintain life – at the expense of another – the fear of age, the almost addictive nature of her cure (on a psychological level) are all picked from the genre and, ultimately, makes this a part of the genre. This film is definitely Vamp.

The imdb page is here.

No comments: