Trailer Face-Off: Only Lovers Left Alive vs. Under the Skin

Published November 21, 2013

Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week: Only Lovers Left Alive vs. Under the Skin, two supernatural films with lethal leading ladies.

PremiseBoth Under the Skin and Only Lovers Left Alive feature supernatural female protagonists who prey on humans and are likely to give us night terrors. In Jonathan Grazer’s indie sci-fi thriller Under the Skin, a wig-wearing Scarlett Johansson is Laura, an alien who uses her sexiness to entrap unsuspecting Scottish men. In Only Lovers Left Alive, Tilda Swinton plays Eve, a creepy bloodthirsty vampire entangled in a century-long romance with a very handsome vampire-cum-rock-star (Tom Hiddleston). She also has a creepy little vampire sister, played by the fabulous Mia Wasikowska. Though we’re suckers (pun intended) for romance, we’re going to have to give this one to the non-vampire film on principle alone.Advantage: Under the Skin

Freaky FemalesBoth Alien ScarJo and Vampire Tilda possess nightmare-inducing qualities. In Under the Skin, Laura (which, by the by, is a very humdrum name for an alien) uses her feminine wiles to lure unsuspecting Scottish gentlemen to her murderous inkblot—or so we gather from the vague and ominous trailer. Laura is often scantily clad, which only adds to her psychosexual evil powers. However, if you aren’t a horny Scotsman, you have little to fear. Tilda’s Eve, conversely, is happy to prey on any unsuspecting fool with a pulse. No one is safe, especially not those whose hands are bleeding on an airplane.Advantage: Only Lovers Left Alive

Creepy CoifsThe inhuman leading ladies in both these films sport creepy hairdos. In Under the Skin, Lauren’s wig is terrifyingly unconvincing—we’d hate to see the mutant outer-space hair that’s lurking beneath. Even though Eve has lifeless white locks fit for the crazy house, we must admit she looks rather cool, and there’s nothing creepy about that.Advantage: Under the Skin

Ominous OvertonesBoth of these films are tremendously dark. We don’t mean dark in the sense that they’re disturbing or twisted (though they are both of those things)—we mean dark as in devoid of light. In terms of plot, this makes sense—hyper-sexualized aliens can pick up fellows more easily in the evenings, and vampires aren’t particularly fond of sunshine—but all that darkness makes for deviously ominous tones. The freaky ambient music doesn’t help in either case. The trailer Only Lovers Left Alive, however, becomes slightly less ominous by actually revealing snippets of its plot. Conversely, Under The Skin offers virtually nothing by way of plotline, and its Lynchian score is infinitely more terrifying. Advantage: Under the Skin

DirectorsOnly Lovers Left Alive‘s Jim Jarmusch revels in quirky filmmaking. His films are consistently good, which is particularly impressive as he writes most of his own screenplays (Broken Flowers, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, Dead Man). Though none of his films are Oscar-yielding smash hits, with Jarmusch you can expect at least a base level of invention that might even lean towards excellence. Jonathan Glazer, conversely, is a little less reliable. Glazer has directed only two feature films: the badass gangster flick Sexy Beast and the poorly received Birth. Though we’re excited at the prospect of Glazer’s first film in nearly a decade, we’d rather bet on the sure thing.Advantage: Only Lovers Left AliveThe VerdictWith a bloodsucking Tilda, an eternal romance, and the deft hand of Jim Jarmusch, we’re certain Only Lovers Left Alive is going to be a good watch. However, with the elusive Jonathan Glazer at its helm, its film noir nods, and total ambiguity, Under the Skin could be the sci-fi freakfest we’re talking about until Glazer gets around to making another film. Winner: Under the Skin

Trailer Face-Off runs every Thursday. For more, click here.