Germany/ Canada, 101 min
Dir. Norbert Keil
The beautiful Kira (Rebecca Forsythe) isn’t doing so well. What started as a small patch of dead skin is spreading at an alarming rate across her body. She’s also suffering from memory loss. She seeks the help of Dr. Rafaela Crober (Barbara Crampton), who appears concerned but not alarmed. Fearing the loss of her beauty, Kira grows desperate. Lotions and medication aren’t doing anything. But a skin graft from a living donor provide a temporary remedy and Kira spirals out of control as she continues to perform skin the grafts on herself with the aid of some very unwilling donors.
In the grand tradition of squirm-inducing films like In My Skin and Martyrs, Replace cuts right to the core and really knows how to get under your skin (sorry, just trying to get the puns out of my system). Directed by Norbert Keil, with screenplay he wrote with Richard freaking Stanley!, the film is an exercise in subdued lunacy. To the film’s credit, it never quite goes where you expect it to. It’s an exploration–and exploitation–of the surprising lengths someone will go to maintain a certain standard of beauty. What starts as a most-severe case of eczema so reveals itself to be a sci-fi-tinged Faustian bargain.
The film is a bloody affair. And though the gore is good, it falls short of appearing completely realistic. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still sufficient enough to make you wince with great frequency. There’s an overall cold, clinical feel to the film and it’s use of gore is indicative of that. Flesh is mostly cut with a scalpel, sliced with precision instead of ravenously torn. Never is it visceral or in-your-face. Instead, it’s presented as though you’re watching the film through the lens of a sterile surgery theater.
Kira has a romantic interest in the mysterious Sophia (Lucie Aron), but the love story remains between Kira and her skin. Even in the arms of someone who would love her no matter how she looks, Kira refuses to give up on her murderous beauty routine. As the mystery behind her circumstances is revealed, we learn of the even greater cost Kira was willing to pay. She’s giving up everything for her appearance. It would be tragic if it wasn’t so pathetic. The film itself, however, is anything but. Tense, gross, and compelling, Replace will stay with you long after the credits roll.