A young woman notices a patch of dry skin that is growing, growing rapidly even. As she tries to understand what is causing this skin issue, her world starts unraveling and she goes to extremes to try and get her life, and beauty, back.
German director Norbert Keil co-wrote Replace with the great Richard Stanley with help from Scarlett Amaris for additional dialogue. Together they create a body horror film with strong ideas and subtle details that make all the difference. The story they build is captivating and has a few twists and turns that would have been unbelievable in a lesser film, but work perfectly here. Their story is well-written, unpredictable, and fun to watch unfold. Their lead and the women around her, as the film mostly has women in most of the parts, are strong characters and develop relationships with each other and their own lives in ways that not only work for the film, but make sense while adding to their characters. Even a character originally written as a man and who became a woman due to casting, works fantastically well, probably even better, as a woman, adding a layer to the story and the reasoning of this character and why she does what she does. These characters are not dependent on men for their reason for being in the story and are their own person independent of each other but also in relationship to each other, which is something that is not often enough done in this type of horror film.
In the lead of Kira Mabon is relative-newcomer Rebecca Forsythe who gives a strong, emotional performance that centers the entire film. As she shows her character’s unraveling, she also shows that she is a strong performer and a talented actress. Supporting her in the part of Sophia Demeraux is Lucie Aron who is charming yet deceptive with a performance that is effusive and hiding something. Shining in her part as she usually does, Barbara Crampton plays the creepy and seemingly cold Dr. Crober, a part originally written as a man and which she takes and makes her own while infusing it with strong femininity. These three lady have the bulk of the screen time and show they each have talent that rivals each other while working together.
A review of Replace would not be complete without a nod to the special effects team. Their work here as well as the visual effects work by Black Sail Pictures VFX is stunning and seriously gross, something that is needed in this situation. The way they tackle the body element of the story elevates it and helps it become much more than just a bit of gore in an otherwise strong story about finding oneself and one’s reason to be. Their work is beautifully disgusting and adds a lot to the visceral hit of the film.
Replace has its Cronenbergian body-horror influences at the forefront while also creating its own world where the viewer can forget about where the influences came from and just dive right in and live along with the lead as her world unravels and she tries to figure herself and what is happening to her out as best she can.
Fantasia International Film Festival runs from July 13th to August 2nd.