The two big selling points of this German-Canadian co-production are Queen Barbara Crampton and the promise of some totally disgusting body horror (though the great Richard Stanley has a writing credit, for those of that persuasion). Replace doesn’t fall down on either but it’s still not an entirely successful enterprise, particularly in this sub-genre.
Rebecca Forsythe is Kira, a young woman who turns to Crampton’s sinister doc when her skin starts to, well, rot. When we first meet her, Kira is accompanying a young man home to his apartment after a night out. Then, upon waking up the next morning, Kira finds him gone while everything in the place appears to be in her name.
It’s a strange setup for a body horror movie that isn’t entirely necessary here. The deterioration of Kira’s body, shown in unwavering, graphic, gross-out detail via some pretty gnarly makeup and prosthetics, is enough on its own without the addition of her mental breakdown. Likewise, a sub-plot sort-of romance complicates matters without adding anything of value.
Crampton has good fun playing the doctor, for once, as a combination mad scientist and disappointed mother but there isn’t nearly enough of her. Both she and Kira are complex, nuanced, layered female characters, the kind we’ve been screaming to see in movies for years, but where Crampton is more than up to the challenge, Forsythe flails.
The body horror stuff is satisfyingly gross, at least, and offered up to us right off the bat with a yucky, peeling little finger. The question of whether Kira is ageing rapidly, or if she’s rotting from the inside out, fades into the background once she’s been driven to steal the best-moisturised skin of her fellow living, breathing humans (because corpse skin is no good, you see).
Replace has a similar sleek and shine to The Neon Demon, though without that film’s surrealist elements. It’s also overlong at an hour and forty minutes, with a saggy middle that fails to move the plot along whatsoever, and the denouement is nonsensical, not to mention unsatisfying given how long it’s taken to get there.
The romantic subplot goes nowhere and is a bit Mulholland Dr.-ish, but there is some stuff to enjoy here, from the movie’s dark sense of humour to the score’s thumping, new rave goodness and the wonderfully gory body horror. It’s worth a watch to see Crampton intone “And all…for vanity” in that wonderful cadence of hers. If only she were the focus throughout.
WICKED RATING: 5/10
Director(s): Norbert Keil
Writer(s): Norbert Keil, Richard Stanley, Scarlett Amaris, Bernd Stack
Stars: Barbara Crampton, Rebecca Forsythe, Lucie Aron, Sean Knopp
Studio/ Production Co: Sparkling Pictures
Length: 101 minutes
Sub-Genre: Body horror