On the one hand, it’s frustrating that films are often called “Cronenbergian” whenever it includes elements of science fiction and grimy practical effects of body horror, but on the other hand, it’s David Cronenberg’s own damn fault for defining a subgenre so wholly that the any movie even slightly delving into that realm is attributed to his name! In that regard, Replace sure is a “Cronenbergian” film, but were I to ever attribute a film of this quality to such a talented filmmaker, I’d feel guilty, because Cronenberg often makes good movies, which is something Replace most definitely is not. But hey! There’s some decent practical effects!
Yeah, it’s a hand, ever heard of it?
After a successful date with a man she’s been seeing, Kira (Rebecca Forsythe) notices a peculiar rash on one of her fingers that’s unlike any she’s seen before. As time progresses, the rash begins to spread across her entire hand. Desperate to discover what is happening to her body, a friend’s chance injury allows Kira to place a piece of her friend’s skin on her rash, resulting in the skin’s absorption into her body. Curious about the mysterious affliction, Kira begins to investigate the root of her problems, but while the disease progresses, Kira finds the only way to keep the condition at bay is by obtaining the skin of others, by any means necessary. Will Kira find a solution to her crappy skin before her temporary solutions get her in big trouble? WHO KNOWS!? (I know, I saw the movie.)
Yeah, it’s a wall, ever heard of it?
I know I can be a Debbie Downer, so how about we start with the strengths of the film, shall we? In less than ten minutes, the practical effects are incredibly convincing, using a disgusting finger peeling scene that avoids the predictable fingernail removal sequence seen in countless other horror movies to a similar effect. Some sequences are more effective than others, but I admire the filmmaker’s commitment. The core story, which was co-written by Richard Stanley, showed promise, even if the film itself didn’t live up to that potential. The brainstorming session must have been quite promising, as there are many compelling elements, but, well, I guess this is where the bad parts come in.
Yeah, it’s skin, ever heard of it? Wait, that’s Barbara Crampton. Hell yeah!
Sadly, it takes a lot more than just some solid effects when crafting a compelling film, as most other elements of the film weren’t nearly as engaging. It’s tough to discern whether it was the cast’s performances or the script that lead to so many wooden, detached interactions on screen, but it was hard to care about anyone or anything that happened to them. The initial reveal of convincing effects piqued my interests early in the film, only to regularly be disappointed with any attempt at humans trying to sound normal. Barbara Crampton manages to give her best B-movie mad scientist, but with the rest of the cast giving B-movie performances in what I assume wasn’t meant to be intentionally hokey, it’s hard to distinguish her deliberate dialogue deliveries from the rest of the cast. If body horror is your thing, you might be able to see past Replace‘s flaws for an interesting interpretation of one’s attempts at staving off death, but to everyone else, the convincing effects will only whet your appetite and leave you hungry for something more substantial.
Wolfman Moon Scale