The Reflecting Skin (1990) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Reflecting Skin1990

The Reflecting Skin (1990)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

The Reflecting Skin Photos

Movie Info

Set in a 1950s-era American heartland of sprawling wheat fields and lonely old houses, The Reflecting Skin is British director Philip Ridley's fascinating and very strange investigation into the horrors of childhood innocence and fantasy. The film's mixture of gruesome subject matter, morbid sexual perversion, and disarming humor has spawned comparisons to the work of David Lynch, particularly Blue Velvet and the Twin Peaks series. Young Seth Dove (Jeremy Cooper) lives with his mother and father in a ramshackle farmhouse that also serves as the local gas station. After reading one of his father's pulp horror magazines, Seth convinces himself that Dolphin Blue (Lindsay Duncan), the attractive widow who lives nearby, is a vampire. When Seth's friend Eben is found dead (and sexually abused) in the family cistern, Seth is sure that Dolphin is to blame. The authorities, however, point to Seth's father, whose secret homosexuality -- and past affair with a young boy -- is a skeleton in the town's closet. Seth's father refuses to have the affair dragged into public view, and so he burns himself alive at the family gas pump, prompting Seth's older brother Cameron (Viggo Mortensen) to return home from a military tour. Cameron falls for Dolphin, and at the same time he becomes weak and begins losing hair. Seth takes this as a sign that Cameron is being drained of vitality by Dolphin, although it is suggested that his sickness is in fact due to overseeing A-bomb tests while on a ship in the South Pacific. Meanwhile, a roving gang prowls the country roads in a sleek, black Cadillac, and more children are found dead. It is not surprising that writer/director Philip Ridley has also published books for children, since watching The Reflecting Skin is a lot like reading a young adult novel, albeit a horrific one. Presented from a child's strangely warped point-of-view, this film should be appreciated by anyone looking for films far outside the mainstream.

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Jeremy Cooper
as Seth Dove
Viggo Mortensen
as Cameron Dove
Lindsay Duncan
as Dolphin Blue
Robert Koons
as Sheriff Ticker
Sherry Bie
as Cassie
Jason Allen Wolfe
as Cadillac Driver
Guy Buller
as Passenger
Debi Greenawdt
as 1st Woman
Sandra Redmond
as 2nd Woman
Walt Healy
as Old Man
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Critic Reviews for The Reflecting Skin

All Critics (15)

a portrait of America that is, in all its estranging hyperrealism & 'magic hour' sheen, both iconic & oneiric - a dreamy, doomy antidote to nostalgia in which rural naturalism, gothic touches and a constant mood of menace all combine

April 18, 2020 | Full Review…

By setting The Reflecting Skin in middle America in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, Ridley allows himself plenty of opportunity to contrast the country's post-War boom with the psychic destruction of a returning soldier like Cameron.

August 29, 2019 | Full Review…

Haunting and hypnotic, The Reflecting Skin gets under the skin and is content to remain there.

August 17, 2019 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

Moves with dreamlike confidence through a culvert of hard realities that are unflinching and insufferable, sometimes to the point of personal discomfort.

July 1, 2016 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

The director shows off his technical skills and a sick humor.

February 9, 2016 | Rating: B | Full Review…

Philip Ridley's acclaimed tale of childhood, vampires and the prairie is as beautiful and menacing as ever.

December 22, 2015 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Reflecting Skin

An intresting film about the "nightmare of childhood." I could see a lot of people complaining about the seemingly random and creepy events of the film, but I think they are missing the point. The movie is shown through the eyes of a 9 year old boy who is going through several traumatizing expierences and nobody who he looks up to is able to explain what is going on in his life, so he is forced to create his own answers for why these things are happening to him. The film will leave you as confused as the boy is, but that is the point. Either way an excellent directorial debut from British playwright Phillip Ridley and several good performances from the actors (most notably a young Viggo Mortenson.) Recommended for fans of the bizarre,

Ed Fucking Harris
Ed Fucking Harris

Super Reviewer


A little boy in rural post-WWII America believes that his lonely widow neighbor is a vampire who is killing his friends and wants to kill his beloved older brother. A literary and ambiguous slice of Midwestern Gothic that teems with unresolved metaphors.

Greg S
Greg S

Super Reviewer

Goes with Powder and Static. Australian, offbeat, creepy.

Steve Strange
Steve Strange

Super Reviewer

The Reflecting Skin Quotes

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