FrightFest Martyn Conterio

FrightFest 2017: Imitation Girl review


★★★★☆

It would be unfair to dismiss Imitation Girl as an Under the Skin knockoff. Both are art films featuring an alien landing on Earth and assuming the form of a young woman, the theme of identity crisis is strong and there’s black gunk. That’s where similarities end.

Julianna (Lauren Ashley Carter) is a porn actress living in New York City. She’s achieved a certain amount of fame, but she’s not happy in a life shaped and financed by male desire and needs. Meanwhile, somewhere in the arid American southwest, a boy is sitting on rocks with a bottle of hooch and a jazz mag. Intent on having an orgy with Judy Palm and her five sisters, the lad’s session is interrupted by an asteroid falling from the sky. A black ooze smothers the porn rag – which features Julianna as the cover girl – and the alien takes her form, walking away from the crash site and into the life of a kindly Iranian-American loner and his older sister.

Natasha Kermani’s elliptical, poetic film, strikingly photographed whether in desert environs, homey interiors or urban landscapes, is spearheaded by genre star Lauren Ashley Carter (Jugface, Pod, Darling). Carter is one of those up and coming actors destined for big things and her dual performance as Julianna and the Imitation Girl is impressive. Carter portrays a sad-eyed junkie in crisis, a person struggling to keep it together, and as Imitation Girl, the Farsi-speaking alien from beyond the stars mimicking and then learning our weird human ways (Twin Peaks fans will immediately think of Dougie Jones), the performance is softly charming.

Imitation Girl never moves into generic territory or routine ‘the doppelganger is coming to get me’ madness. It rests on something far more invigorating and thematically poignant related to gender politics. Julianna is at a crossroads in her life, where her job, drug addiction and an upcoming audition to attend a top musical conservatory, conspire to take her over the edge. The alien double’s role is less to invade her life and take over than it is to facilitate an escape, the end result achieves a feminist fairy-tale with a shivery existentialist twist.

Horror Channel FrightFest takes place from 24-28 August. Tickets: frightfest.co.uk
Martyn Conterio | @Cinemartyn