Plagued by a painful condition that causes her flesh to dry and peel, sloughing off like snake skin, beautiful, young Kira (Rebecca Forsythe) experiences a disquieting sense of déjà vu when visiting upmarket dermatologist Dr Crober (Barbara Crampton). She has no recollection of being under the doctor’s care but she certainly knows Kira who can’t help feeling like a lab rat as the doctor inspects her and orders a battery of tests.

Worryingly, she also can’t remember what happened to her boyfriend Jonas (Sean Knopp) or when exactly she moved into his apartment but according to overly friendly neighbour Sophia (Lucie Aron), Kira has been there for months, since long before Sophia moved in.

Suffering from hallucinations and flashbacks, increasingly unable to distinguish between fantasy and reality, Kira makes a shocking discovery: her skin can absorb, can be rejuvenated, by the blood and skin of other women. Pretty soon she’s a multiple murderess flaying beautiful naked women in her bathtub, harvesting and consuming their flesh, struggling to keep her Bathory-esque crimes from the inquisitive Sophie with whom she’s entered into a relationship. But as her skin worsens and her mental state deteriorates, Kira is driven to investigate the mysterious Dr Crober’s clinic and discover the truth about her condition…

A ripe, luscious, erotic fever dream of body horror, desire and gender politics, beauty may be in the eye of the beholder but it’s also only skin deep in German director Norbert Keil’s Replace. Co-written with Scarlett Amaris and Richard Stanley (yup, that Richard Stanley), Keil drags the Countess Bathory myth of beauty and youth-obsessed vanity languidly into our beauty and youth-obsessed 21st century and, with the disappearance of Jonas early in the film, the gaze is refreshingly female, Replace being almost devoid of men, the focus being on Kira, her narcissistic obsession and spiral into serial murder even as she finds redemptive love with neighbour Sophia less about her character’s desperation than it is a comment on society’s double standards that allow men to grow old gracefully while women are forced to cannibalise themselves for acceptance.

While Lucie Aron’s role is pretty much reduced to the thankless task of girlfriend-cum-expository device, it’s nice to see Barbara Crampton complete the transition from Re-Animator’s damsel-in-distress to full-on mad scientist in her own right and she’s a classy and compellingly amoral presence in the film, Replace belongs body and soul to the luminous Rebecca Forsythe (daughter of everybody’s favourite tough guy character actor William Forsythe) who is a revelation as the surprisingly innocent Kira, at once vulnerable and terrifying, enraptured by her own beauty, her revulsion at her decaying body turning to fascination.

With it’s glittering surfaces, sterile examination rooms and dank, almost alive, strobe and neon-splashed depths shot by cinematographer Tim Peter Kuhn and Franco Tortoran and Tom Batoy’s Cliff Martinez-like score, Keil has crafted an exploration of beauty and madness that demands to be double billed with Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon, both films dark adult erotic fairytales that play with our sympathies.

Stylish, visceral and undeniably beautiful, Replace digs deep at the dark, ugly heart of the beauty industry and is destined to be a future cult classic.


Horror Channel Frightfest Review: Replace
5.0Overall Score
Reader Rating: (0 Votes)

About The Author