Fantastic Fest 2019 Review: KNIVES AND SKIN

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

Though not a true musical, Jennifer Reeder’s Knives and Skin uses music and song in some inventive and powerful ways. This film, which tackles the scary years of high school, focuses on a group of teenage girls struggling with identity amidst the aftermath a classmate’s disappearance. The film delves deep into these problems along with the accompanying feelings and emotions. Reeder’s use of songs to express these feelings really drives her movie into the hearts of her audiences.

A small rural town, where nothing interesting ever happens, gets rattled when a sweet and popular high school marching band member, Carolyn Harper (Kaitlyn Whitley) mysteriously disappears. Though most of the characters have no clue why, the audience and one other character know the truth. As it becomes clear that law enforcement and search parties cannot find Carolyn, the high school teens and begin to consider and reflect upon their own lives, problems and identities.

Writer/director Jennifer Reeder ended up on my radar a few years ago when she brought her lovable and charming film Signature Move to SXSW. So, when I heard she brought her latest movie to Fantastic Fest, I made it a priority to see it. I was not disappointed at all. Reeder’s Knives and Skin is a remarkable and powerful piece which empowers high school girls to find their own true paths despite the the possible adversity they could face by their classmates, teen boys, and society in general.

Reeder does not shy away from showing the ugly and evil things boys and men can do towards women, but uses it as a source of galvanization. That is not to say the tone of the film is dour and completely serious. Reeder infuses her story with a wry sense of humor which works so well as a counter to the sad and ugly elements. All of these elements mixed with the use of songs make Knives and Skin a wonderfully unique and expressive experience.

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