Title: Replace (Fantasia 2017)

Also known as:

Year: 2017

Genre: Horror / Drama / Thriller / Science-Fiction

Language: English

Runtime: 101 min

Director: Norbert Keil

Writer: Norbert Keil, Richard Stanley, Scarlett Amaris (additional Dialogue), Bernd Strack (Script Translation)

IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5563862/

Kira wakes up one morning and her life isn’t what it seems. Everything feels completely foreign to her as her memory isn't lining up with her reality. She also's horrified to discover that the skin around her hand is beginning to peel and flake away — and worse, the infection appears to be growing. When she receives a call from a doctor’s office, she goes to her scheduled appointment in hopes of finding answers to her problems. Instead she discovers that her flesh is slowly rotting away.

Our thoughts:
“Replace” is the sophomore feature film by director/writer Norbert Keil but his film garnered a lot of attention at the Fantasia International Film Festival due to the fact that his co-writer was Richard Stanley (“Dust Devil”, “Hardware”). For me, what caught my attention was seeing Barbara Crampton on the cast list. After last year with “Beyond the Gate” and “Sun Choke”, her name was all I needed to make the decision on watching the film.

Kira, a young and beautiful woman, is struggling with reality the next morning after a late night rendezvous with a young man. Things don’t seem to be the way she remembers them, but even worse, she seems to have a growing infection on her hand. Even though she doesn’t remember who her own doctor is or past visits, Kira goes to see Dr. Rafaela Crober about her hand. There, Kira is informed that her bouts of amnesia are a side effect of a procedure but what’s happening on her hand isn’t an infection — her skin is rapidly decaying. Watching her flesh slowly rot away begins to drive Kira insane but she learns if she peels away the decay her body will quickly absorb new skin. The desire to cure herself and to keep her beauty causes her to begin killing young women throughout the city and taking their flesh. As she continues on, seemingly fighting the inevitable, Kira uncovers the truth about herself and why this is happening and it leads back to Dr. Crober.

There’s been a couple movies that use decaying flesh (with a female protagonist) — “Thanatomorphose” and “Contracted” are what comes to mind — and use the decaying process as a metaphor for something greater. “Replace” is no different as the movie primarily tackles vanity and self-identity. Unfortunately due to the theme of vanity, the protagonist being a young woman, and Keil’s propensity to use garish lighting schemes, “Replace” brings a lot of comparisons to “Neon Demon”. It’s something Keil’s film will never escape, and while it’s not an entirely invalid comparison, they are different films that tackle the theme differently.

An aspect that I found interesting is how Keil changes the way in which the audience should feel about the Kira character. In the middle of the film, Kira becomes a giallo-inspired killer. Targeting and isolating young women throughout the city in order to murder them for their skin — all in the name of vanity. An overwhelming fear of what she believes is her whole identity. She becomes a shallow monster yet, by the end of the film, Keil presents her still as a sympathetic character, even though everything happening to her is a direct result of her choices. All of which comes back to her obsession with her looks. It’s an interesting challenge for a viewer — can you be sympathetic towards someone who viciously murdered people based on the most empty of reasons?

This question reinforces the secondary concept that Keil and Stanley try to cover with their film and that is identity — is a person actually vain for focusing on their looks when the way we look is something that uniquely makes us who we are? This concept comes through the film’s science-fiction element and the Dr. Crober storyline, and while it does help with the emotional value of Kira, it doesn’t quite help in elevating “Replace”. The importance of self-identity, within a society, and what it means to have it taken away from you — whether it’s by your own volition or not — is an interesting notion. Even with this idea, the film reverts back to the simpler concept of vanity and the pursuit of beauty and the deadly results that unfold from self-centered choices.

While “Replace” isn’t able to do more with its themes and elevate itself a bit more doesn’t hurt the film in the long run. It doesn’t make it as good or as memorable as it could have been though. In hindsight, “Replace” was a bold movie that does a good job of blending it some science-fiction concepts with character-drama that have horror and giallo flourishes. And admittedly, it’s a pretty brazen concept to have a movie where your protagonist is also your antagonist and you’re left watching as she skins women in order to absorb their beauty. The scenes are harsh and unpleasant, yet mesmerizing as they are painted in neon lights. As I said earlier, I don’t believe “Replace” will ever escape from the “Neon Demon” comparisons but those comparisons might help in the long run as it could spark interest for unsure but potential audience.

Positive things:
- Impressive lighting and cinematography.
- Barbara Crampton.
- Somehow it turns its main character into a killer and you don't hate her by the end.
Negative things:
- Missed the opportunity to elevate the material.
- Gunshot. Fade to black.

Gore: 3/5
Nudity: 2/5
Story: 2.5/5
Effects: 3/5
Comedy: 0/5

We watched this movie thanks to:
Fantasia International Film Festival 2017

Reviewed by:






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