Perfect Skin, 2018.
Directed by Kevin Chicken.
Starring Richard Brake, Jo Woodcock, Natalia Kostrzewa, and Tom Ashley.
A young Polish girl Katia (Natalia Kostrzewa) meets American tattoo artist Bob Reid (Richard Brake) while traveling in London. While Katia is enamored by his mysterious aura and insane body modifications, Bob hides some dark and twisted secrets.
By the time Perfect Skin rolls credits, you will want to take a very long shower. This film is dirty, grungy, but surprisingly well-crafted. Don’t let the aesthetic choice take away from some great acting and some pure horror insanity!
In this film, young Katia is searching for a place to stay in London. When she stumbles upon the mysterious Bob, an American tattoo artist, Katia believes she’s found a home of her own. Sadly Bob has other far more twisted things in mind. Perfect Skin conjures feelings of a film like Hostel, but in actuality, it feels more like a 70’s exploitation film. Think more along the lines of 1978’s I Spit On Your Grave and less 2005’s Wolf Creek. While the film doesn’t have the brutal sexual violence of the 70’s exploitation films, you still have that grittiness that made those films such a pleasure/pain to view.
Somehow, this review won’t turn into a love letter to genre actor Richard Brake. His performance in Perfect Skin as tattoo artist Bob Reid is another in a long line of detailed character pieces. Brake brings something unique to this film, and though you expect it, that doesn’t make it any less surprising to see. You may know Richard Brake from amazing performances in Joe Chill in Batman Begins or as the Night King on Game of Thrones, but his standout performance for me is in Rob Zombie’s 31. That movie is where I saw the pure terror that Brake could bring to a film, and Perfect Skin is another entry into that chilling catalog. His performance at tattoo artist Bob Reid commands the screen. You can’t take your eyes off him, even when he is doing some dark things! Richard Brake’s Bob could easily be some generic creepy villain, but he adds more soul to this character. Sadly, he does chew up the scenery so much that I don’t have many notes for Natalia Kostrzewa’s performance as Katia. She played against Brake very well but lacks the extra attitude to bring her an iconic horror girl.
Body modification is a fascinating subject to tackle in a horror film. It was the primary focus in the 2012 film American Mary but didn’t get explored much after that. While that film shows the dark underbelly to the industry, Perfect Skin focuses on one man and his shocking way of practicing body modification. One of the biggest compliments I can give this film is the fact it doesn’t demonize body mods or people who enjoy it; all it does is show you one psycho and how he uses it for evil. When diving into any new culture, it’s hard not to offend, but I think director Kevin Chicken handles everything very well.
Sadly, all the intense horror on-screen is a little hard to see at times as the film has such a dark look to it. Not dark as in Zack Snyder’s “dark-grim” DC world, but more so, dark as I couldn’t see much. The lighting exposure for scenes involving Brake and his studio is so low that I couldn’t tell if it was an artistic choice or just sloppy cinematography. “Crushing the blacks” is a choice many filmmakers love to do, but it just felt a little mishandled here. Small technical missteps like the exposure and some weak camera work keep this from gaining higher marks, but it is more than made up for with the acting and direction.
Horror fans looking for something a little more sadistic than the average mainstream film will enjoy Perfect Skin. This movie is likely going to get pushed aside by most as another gritty exploitation or “torture porn” film, but they’d be missing out on Richard Brake’s fantastic turn in this piece. Also, anyone with a fear of needles or hooks should stay far away! This won’t really convince anyone to get a tattoo or piercing anytime soon.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★