Blue On Black: I Hate The Reflecting Skin (1990)

I enjoy words. Adjectives are especially my favourite. I take so much pleasure in reading a sentence about food and being able to know exactly how it smells, how it tastes. Or a paragraph about the beach, and feeling like I’m right there, smelling the ocean, hearing the waves. It’s a special kind of writing. Sometimes less is more, sure, but for the most part, I’m a firm believer in over-describing. Give me the dirty details. Tell me everything. I must know all! The same applies to talking. I’m definitely an over-sharer, it’s just something I’ve come to accept, and (most of) those around me have come to accept it as well. If you ask how my day was, you’ll never get a simple, “Good.” You will get it all – who said what, how they said it, how someone walked (impressions included), and on and on. I’m a storyteller, what do you want from me? Anyway, the point of this pointless ramble is this: Since I first saw The Reflecting Skin, which was probably when I was about 7 or 8, I’ve only ever been able to describe it one way, with one word. If I’m asked about this film or if it comes up in conversation, I am only able to say this about it: It’s gross.

RSPosterSo what’s gross about it? Well nothing specifically. It’s just… gross. It isn’t gory, bloody, or violent, not really. I don’t think I would even consider it a horror film. It’s a fucked up film, but not a true horror film. But it leaves me feeling dirty every time I watch it, which is only about once every 5-10 years, pretty much whenever I feel the need to expose someone else to its gross-ness. Even the title makes me feel queasy. “The Reflecting Skin.” What the hell is that? (It is explained in the film, but I’m not getting into it.) I’m literally shuddering as I type. This movie was Traumatizing for me as a child, with a capital freaking T. I hate it. But alas, dear reader, it’s a fine line between love and hate, and to keep the great balance balanced, sometimes I need to share these things with you too.

This film takes place in the 50s in the great state of Idaho. The protagonist (if you can call him that, he’s such a little shit), Seth Dove (Jeremy Cooper), is 8 years old. He’s probably quite a normal kid thinking back on it now, but to traumatized me, he’s nothing but a little creeper. There’s a scene where he and his co-creeping little shit friends put a straw up a frog’s ass, blow the frog up like a balloon, and leave it on the road where a woman (whom Seth believes is a vampire because he’s stupid and dumb) named Dolphin Blue (yeah, I hate this movie) is out for a walk. As she approaches the ballooned frog, they shoot a pebble at it with their slingshot and it explodes all over her, covering her in blood. Gross, like I said.

RS2Back to the plot. Some slightly older weirdos roll into town, hit on Seth in a very uncomfortable scene at Seth’s father’s gas station, and one of Seth’s friends is eventually abducted, molested, and murdered by them. Seth’s mother is insane and abusive, his father is being accused of the crimes against the little boys in the area, and I guess to cope, Seth befriends a mummified infant he finds in a barn. Yup. A dead baby. He is also convinced that this dead baby is the spirit of his murdered friend, and talks to it regularly. The only seemingly sane person in this entire film appears to be Seth’s older brother, Cameron (played by a baby-faced Viggo Mortensen), who has recently returned from his military duties, and is sleeping with the supposed vampire, Dolphin Blue (Lindsay Duncan). Seth is horrified by this relationship, as he seems to know his brother is all he has in the world, and tries to put a stop to their weird gross romance.

RS1Writing this now, I know this film probably isn’t actually as awful or as horrific as I think it is. Maybe if any of you watched it, you’d think, “That actually wasn’t too bad,” or, “Kind of cheesy, but not really scary.” I don’t know. But imagine being 8 year old me and watching Seth’s father (Duncan Fraser) stroll out to the gas pump in front of his son, put the nozzle in his mouth, guzzle a bunch of gasoline before soaking himself in it, and then lighting a match. It was without a doubt the most realistically and truly frightening thing I had ever seen on-screen at that point in time. I had already stayed up late with Freddy, Jason, and Chucky, but they didn’t scare me like this. Nothing scared me like this. That scene, just thinking of it now, turns my stomach.

So even after all these 20+ years, and after rewatching it last year for the first time in a decade, I can still only describe it as gross. It is. I hate this movie.

Don’t watch it.

Unless you haven’t.

No, still don’t.