Striking from start to finish Norbert Keil’s Replace was one of the standout films from FrightFest 2017 blending beautiful haunting imagery with an intriguing plot that twists and turns its way around until all is finally revealed to the audience and the central character of Kira played brilliantly by Rebecca Forsythe.
Kira has a dermatological disorder which causes her skin to flake away at an alarming rate but this is only one of her issues as her memory seems to playing tricks on her causing confusion and unexpected visions in her own home that disturb and upset her.
As her condition worsens she makes fast friends with her new neighbour Sophie (Lucie Aron) who shows deep concern for her however things start to spiral out of control as Kira gets more and more desperate to regain her youthful looks and body which is distressingly decaying before her very eyes.
When Kira tries to replace her own skin with some cut from a corpse she realises there is only one other answer to find someone alive and cut off their skin instead. Attacking a girl in a club Kira flays her victim replacing her dead skin and making it like new seemingly solving everything. But the effect is short lived and soon Kira is back on the streets ready to replace more.
Written by Keil as well as the legendary horror director Richard Stanley Replace works wonderfully as a critique of our beauty and youth obsessed world where people take more and more extreme measures to attack aging itself which seems to be seen as a disease to be delayed or defeated rather than a natural process that comes to us all.
The cast are excellent especially Forsythe who plays Kira as a complex confused character that the audience both fears and sympathises with throughout the film. Even when doing aggressively unspeakable things we can see she is as much a victim as the women she kills and as the story moves forward revealing more and more our connection and empathy increases tenfold.
Aron’s Sophie comes across as a free spirited force of nature at odds with Kira who is secretive and reserved at first and their growing relationship which transforms from friendship into something more is very well handled.
Best of all genre icon Barbara Crampton (Re-animator, You’re Next) enters midway as Dr. Rafaela Crober delivering as outstanding performance as ever as head of an institute that could hold the answers to all Kira’s questions if she is willing to accept the truth.
Well shot and exquisitely designed Replace confounds expectation, at times challenging and brutal at others lyrical and tragic. You could see it as a gore drenched critique of the beauty industry or as a modern day twist on the mythos of the vampire or as a feminist slasher set against the male gaze but whatever way you interpret it, this is a horror that will most definitely make you think.