Knives And Skin…
Written and directed by Jennifer Reeder, Knives and Skin is a quirky, complex dissection of human needs, desires and the interactions we choose to meet those needs. In a small, midwest town, local teen Carolyn Harper goes missing and this event impacts everyone differently. Much like Heathers used teen suicide to take a deeper look at the nasty machinations of high school hierarchy and River’s Edge used a dead body to show how kids are so easily destroyed when they are abandoned by their parents and adult figures in general, Knives and Skin takes a uniquely feminist look at emotional isolation and the treachery of being a teenage girl in the world at large.
Opening with the events that lead to Carolyn’s disappearance, the tone of toxic males and girls exploring their sexuality is immediately set. The politics of sex are always laying beneath the surface of the characters’ interactions and the particular double edged sword of being a teenage girl is summed up when one girl is asked of another, “If you’re not a cunty slut or a bitchy tease, then what are you?” Though the film is visually nostalgic of the 80’s with bright fluorescent lighting that contrasts the emotional seriousness, it’s also feels as though it’s taking place on the cusp of the #metoo movement within a Giallo film. The hair, makeup and clothing are all wonderfully 80’s and futuristic at the same time while never feeling like a gimmick. All of the women in this movie are strong despite their uncertainty in the world. They wear the clothes: the clothes do not wear them.
With themes of mental illness, loads of mom issues, toxic masculinity, grief and coming of age in general, Knives and Skin should feel as heavy as two tons on your shoulders, but the dry humor that these girls use to navigate the world dulls some of the pain. Though they live in a small town that feels like a direct road to nowhere, it’s also a town delightfully filled with diversity, acapella renditions of 80’s pop hits, nods to feminist icons and a really sweet love story.
Reeder has artfully packed so many themes and issues into the film, that multiple viewings are required to fully catch everything that she is commenting on and you know what? I look forward to it.
Knives and Skin played as part of the Fantasia Film Festival 2019.
Images: Fantasia Film Festival