FTP: Imitiation Girl (2017)

JULY 10, 2019


Some folks complained that Imitation Girl was a knockoff of Under the Skin, but I didn't see the latter so I can't support/refute those claims - I only bring it up so that you, internet commenter, don't bother to make the same comparison. Even if it was intentional... so what? Friday the 13th was an admitted attempt to cash in on Halloween, and both of those are loved by horror fans, so I think we can accept two movies about aliens taking the form of a human woman. And from what little I know of the other film, I can tell they have different plots entirely - while that one had a rising body count and a sole performance for its lead, Imitation Girl has no violence and is more of a drama about the alien woman and the regular human whose form she clones.

Both roles are played by Lauren Ashley Carter, who was so good in Jug Face and is even more impressive here playing the two roles. As the alien one, she spends the movie adapting to a human life, seemingly not possessing any traditional movie alien traits (i.e. she doesn't want to kill everyone) and making her way around the southwestern US - Starman may come to mind, and that's probably fine with writer/director Natasha Kermani, since it's similarly about what it means to be human and also reaffirming that maybe not every alien that comes to earth wants to kill us. The other character is Julianna, an model/adult film actress whose magazine spread gives "Imitation" her inspiration for human form (the alien is seemingly made of black goo otherwise). Her life, as we quickly learn, kind of sucks - she's doing films that are bad even by porn standards, selling drugs to make ends meet, and basically having trouble making one meaningful connection with another person.

It only takes about a half hour (if that) of the film cutting back and forth between their day to day life to see where it's going - they're going to meet up and fill in the missing pieces for the other. So it's unfortunate that (SPOILER!) the movie is practically over by the time this actually happens, as I could have happily watched another movie of them palling around or doing... well, anything really. The film ends so abruptly after their first encounter that it's not even clear what either of them might have done with the other had they any time to do so. Carter's dual performances are so good that I never minded when it would cut from one to the other, as I was equally compelled by both of their single storylines, but part of it was my excitement for what would happen when they finally met, and the payoff for that wasn't as fulfilling.

Until then, good stuff. Kermani's got a great eye, and her music elevates many of these scenes to boot. There's one around the halfway point (if that) where Imitation is learning to cook and learn Farsi (an Iranian man finds her in the desert and lets her stay at the home he shares with his sister) that I found quite moving, completely forgetting that I actually started watching this thinking it was about an alien woman presumably doing movie alien things (i.e. TENTACLE MURDERS!), and by the end I actually forgot the character started off as a puddle of black goo. The filmmaker also does a fine job balancing the two narratives; the risk of tonal shifts is quite high since Imitation's scenes are generally uplifting while Julianna's life continually gets worse, but it never feels that way at all. If one character's path wasn't interesting, the movie as a whole wouldn't work - thankfully it's not an issue.

I should be clear that this isn't even remotely a horror movie - no one is trying to harm anyone, nothing is particularly scary, etc. It's a straight up character drama with an unusual premise involving an alien. But it's part of Dread Central's label, and while the movies have been hit or miss, I do like what they're doing and wanted to make sure horror fans are aware of the steadily increasing line of titles (most of which are indeed full blown horror). The discs all have extensive bonus features and there's a healthy variety of sub-genres being represented (including documentaries - they put out the one about Kane Hodder that I quite liked), plus reversible art for those who like to have options. I assume it's Carter's experience with the genre and the keyword "alien" that got it on their radar, but I'm glad they branched out of their comfort zone to present it as I might not have seen it otherwise - which is really the main draw of these specialty lines, far as I'm concerned. If this came out from IFC or A24 or whatever I probably wouldn't have seen it, but being part of a budding line that I'm naturally inclined to take an interest in meant it got to my eyeballs. And hopefully yours too, if it sounds up your "not in the mood for traditional horror" alley.

What say you?


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