Kira Mabon (Rebecca Forsythe) has met a nice man (Sean Knopp) on a night out, and one thing leads to another as they hit it off conversationally, discussing among other things how as a woman she would hate to grow old, but she doesn't mind it in men since experience counts for a lot. Once back at his place, they get very familiar with one another and she wakes up in his bed the next morning feeling refreshed and... rather lost. She should know who she is, but for some reason her memory is failing her, and she cannot remember where her home is nor what she is supposed to be doing today. The man she was with, whose apartment she assumes this to be, is nowhere to be seen, so she decides to stick around until she gets her bearings...
Replace was notable in the horror field for Richard Stanley's name in the credits; the one-time bright new hope of chiller cinema for his work in Hardware and to a lesser extent Dust Devil, was a writer on this project. He co-scripted with director Norbert Keil and they conjured up a very David Cronenberg plot, except it wasn't quite, as the approach, far from the hard-edged and clear eyed one the great Canadian director would have adopted, was more dreamlike, surreal even, as Kira descends into degradation of possibly her own making. Or it could possibly be of a sinister machination that she was somehow involved with somewhere before we caught up with her as her body begins to rebel.
Where Marilyn Chambers was given a new implant in Rabid that spread the titular disease, there was nothing so ambitious in this Canadian/German co-production, though the fairly low budget was implemented with some skill to craft a stylish, if potentially squeamish, experience. Keil favoured soft focus to bring out that unreal quality, but the theme was plainly related to us from the outset from that conversation about a young woman hating the ageing process: it would seem some shadowy consortium was trying to find a cure for that, and Kira had become a part of it when she develops a skin disease that sees her crumbling and flaking in a condition that spreads across her dermis, though her solution is drastic.
She finds she can replace the dead skin with, well, live skin - from bodies of young women she has murdered, that is. Now, it's a bit of a stretch, to say the least, that if you found you had an illness you would start bumping people off to cure it, but this was a horror movie and so as Kira ages in patches, she becomes a curious kind of youth vampire, feeding off the vitality of her victims in a stark metaphor for the cosmetic surgery industry. But there is only so much of the lead character skulking about and cutting off flesh from those she preys on, and after a while it was clear Keil and Stanley were running out of things to do with Kira. Fortunately, they dreamt up a conspiracy plot which may not have been original - we've seen menacing medical companies in countless horrors since the likes of Seconds in the sixties, after all - but was nicely played.
Almost stealing the movie was Lucie Aron, who essayed the role of the next-door neighbour Sophia, a flirty type who makes no secret of her interest in Kira and adds a necessary bounce to what could have been very doleful and sorry for itself. Her scenes were highlights, as were those with the doctor Kira sees, played by Barbara Crampton well into her career renaissance and proving her worth with an official-seeming persona that nevertheless generates unease: the doctor comes across as professional enough, yet why are we suspicious of her? Other than this being signalled as a horror movie from the outset, that was. If the investigation into humanity's, and specifically women's, dread of getting old didn't tell us anything we could not have worked out from watching your average health and beauty TV ad, to see it acted out with grim determination was quite bracing, and Forsythe (daughter of cult favourite heavy William Forsythe, though looking like Elizabeth Olsen here) skilfully provided a canvas for this meditation. That dreamlike atmosphere forgave a lot. Electro-music by Tom Batoy and Franco Tortora.