REPLACE **** Germany / Canada 2017 Dir: Norbert Keil. 101 mins
A dark, compelling satire of our obsession with “beauty” and youth co-written by director Norbert Keil and Richard Stanley. Rebecca Forsythe is excellent as a pretty young musician who begins suffering blackouts and short-term memory loss, while her boyfriend appears to disappear and the outer layer of her skin ages at an alarming rate. Specialist Barbara Crampton (splendidly detached) offers little comfort and flirty student-neighbour Lucie Aron (also terrific) has no recollection of the absentee partner. Shot and cut to make its urban backdrop appear as cold and alienating as possible, REPLACE takes inspiration from Elizabeth Bathory and key modern horror texts like LES YEUX SANS VISAGE, while aping Cronenberg’s recurring obsession with ageing, disease and body paranoia. It works on a visceral level as the deteriorating Forsythe stalks beautiful young women for their skin en route to a suitably gruesome climax that nods to MARTYRS. Beneath the gore, however, is a poignant portrayal of a loving same-sex relationship, with the two leads capturing a rare chemistry onscreen while director Keil smooths over potentially jarring tonal shifts between black humour, physical horror and tragedy. The rich score by Franco Tortora and Tom Batoy similarly veers effectively from pulsing, imposing Carpenter-ish rhythms to the other worldy beauty of John Murphy’s film work. A stand-out moment riffs cleverly on the cliched bathroom mirror scare as it captures, in a single image, the horror we all quietly harbour about getting old.
Review by Steven West