Metal Skin (DVD)
Starring Aden Young, Tara Morice, Nadine Garner, Ben Mendelsohn
Directed by Geoffrey Wright
Released by Subversive Cinema
Having just watched Wolf Creek again on DVD, the idea of another Australian thriller was very appealing to me, especially one that came from mind and pen of Romper Stomper creator Geoffrey Wright. The synopsis for Metal Skin is a bit vague, so I really didn't know what to expect going in, but having it seen it now I can understand why it's so difficult to pin this movie down.
The story's main focus is on Joe (Young), a suburban youth who's just got a job at the local grocers. On his very first day, while wandering around he store, he happens up on a carnal act being performed by Dazey (Mendelsohn), who he later learns is actually the boyfriend of one of the most beautiful girls Joe's ever seen, Roslyn (Garner). Dazey asks Joe to keep what he's seen between them ("things happen, man"), and soon a friendship based on their mutual love of cars is formed.
Ah, yes, cars. Though both Joe and Dazey are car freaks, souping up their rides and taking part in late night, illegal street races, Metal Skin is not just about cars. Indeed, cars serve as the only thing about these characters they can use to relate to one another, be it Roslyn’s fear of them (caused by the accident she was in with Dazey, in which he was going to fast and she ended up with horrible burns), or the Satan-worshiping Savina’s sudden attraction to them, (mainly to do with her obsession with Dazey), cars are the only common ground the four central characters have.
Joe invites Savina to the illegal drag races with them one night, thinking she might like him, but she goes along with it because she’ll finally be able to spend time with Dazey. Joe ends up getting too drunk and scaring Savina away, and in the morning stumbles upon Dazey and Savina in a very compromising position, setting in motion a horrific turn of events that culminates with one of the most beautifully filmed, devastating car chases I've ever seen.
The entire story is very Shakespearian in its depiction of tragedy touching the lives of all four central characters with varying degrees of destruction resulting from it. No one comes out at the end unscarred and some relationships are ruined forever. This is primarly due to these character’s complete inability to interact with one another on pretty much any level, as each of them feels they need to be saved in one way or another. Savina thinks that is she prays to the devil long enough, Dazey will love her and she will be taken from her strict religious home. Roslyn sees changing her appearance and the people she hangs out with as the only way to make her scars heal. Joe just wants to make a lot of money so he can take care of his father, who has the mentality of a child, and live comfortably. Dazey want his family to accept him and for Roslyn to forgive him, but can’t seem to keep his libido in check for long. When these four come together, each private agenda clashes with the other and nothing good at all comes of it.
So, the question you might be asking is; is it horror? Strictly speaking, no. Savina does worship Satan to a very extreme degree, defiling a church and sacrificing animals to ge what she wants, but anyone who watches this will see that she’s doing it more for attention than an actual belief in the pagan rights. The true horror in Metal Skin is simply how real it all is, which stems from the amazing performances put in by all four leads and their depiction of living in their own personal hell. That is not to say a horror fan won’t enjoy it, just don’t expect some run-of-the-mill fright flick.
Since this is a DVD review, the first thing I have to mention is how simply amazing this film looks in this format. The folks at Subversive truly went above and beyond what was required for a general clean up and have made Metal Skin one of the most visually striking movies I’ve seen in a long time. The colors are vivid and strong; the darks are perfectly attuned, it all gives the general bleakness of the suburbs a totally alive feeling. You’ll really appreciate the difference when you watch the making of featurette, which shows footage pre-cleanup. The new 5.1 sound mix only enhances the experience that much more; indeed the car race at the end is a perfect test for the limits of your surround sound equipment.
Geoffrey’s Wright’s commentary on both the film and his first short feature, Lover Boy, is exceptional. Wright is intelligent and witty, with a bit of an almost boyish charm to him, especially when he’s discussing some of his personal favorite scenes. He gives good insight both into the actual making of the movie as well as it’s meanings and subtleties, so it’s well worth the listen.
"Pedal to the Metal: The Making of Metal Skin" is a brand-new documentary produced by Subversive for this disc featuring interviews with Wright, Young, Morice and Garner, discussing how they got involved and their feelings on the movie 12 years later. Everything from the first few months of pre-production, which were actually preceded by months of location scouting, to the final few moments of filming and everything in between is covered in the 33-minute package.
The other notable feature on this disc is the previously mentioned first short film from Wright, Lover Boy. This 57-minute short tells the story of another Australian suburbanite, Micke (Noah Taylor), who becomes the boy toy of an older, sexually frustrated neighbor woman he does yard work for. It’s another tragedy waiting to happen, and certainly it delivers on that aspect with a very downbeat ending. This is the first example of Wright’s fascination with the stories that go on behind closed doors in suburbs all around the world, and it’s a great precursor to his later work. Certainly it doesn’t look like any first film I’ve ever seen, with superb acting and plotting throughout.
Other features on the disc include a group of trailers for this and other Subversive releases, a new intro by Geoffrey Wright for the film and a second disc, the Meal Skin soundtrack. Personally there was nothing all that extraordinary about the soundtrack to me, but it’s still a very cool bonus feature for Subversive to include on yet another well-stacked DVD release.
With each subsequent release, Subversive are proving themselves to be a force to be reckoned with when it comes to getting obscure titles on the mass market, and I’m glad this is one of their early releases. Though not pure horror, as was previously mentioned, Metal Skin is just a great genre cross-blend that stands on its own as a very unique film, one that American audiences will finally be able to experience in the absolute best looking format possible.
Commentary by director Geoffrey Wright
Intro by director Geoffrey Wright
"Pedal to the Metal: The Making of Metal Skin"
Lover Boy short film (w/commentary)
Movie soundtrack (disc 2)
4 out of 5 Mugs O' Blood
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