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Credit: Newcity Chicago Film Project

Exclusive: Knives and Skin tackles teen sex and slut-shaming

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Dec 6, 2019

We've been singing the praises of Jennifer Reeder's Knives and Skin since its U.S. premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival last spring. This bold writer/director mixes elements of horror, fantasy, neo-noir, teen drama, and musicals to create an astounding story alive with color, heart, secrets, and song. Now this mind-blowing and genre-blending marvel has finished its world tour of festivals and is finally coming to a theater (and VOD platform) near you!

Knives and Skin is one of our favorite films of the season. So, to celebrate its release, SYFY FANGRRLS is premiering an exclusive clip. And bonus: It's one of our favorite bits of this phenomenal film. But first, a bit of context.

Set in a small Midwestern town, Knives and Skin begins with a bespectacled band geek named Carolyn Harper (Raven Whitley), who goes out for a joyride and never comes home. Her disappearance sparks suspicion, outrage, and agony in her family, friends, neighbors, and classmates. Their collective experience offers a neon-streaked nightmare, threaded with teen angst and studded with haunting musical numbers, covers of '80s pop songs like "Our Lips Are Sealed" or "Girls Just Want to Have Fun." 

In this clip, three classmates across clique lines interact in an intimate scenario: a dress fitting for the big dance. It begins barbed, with two of the girls (Kayla Carter and Ireon Roach) trying to find out where each other fits in the unwinnable binary offered young women. Then, something simple and extraordinary happens.

This clip contains language that may not be suitable for work.

Are you a c*nty slut or a bitchy tease? When Reeder sat down with SYFY FANGRRLS for an interview earlier this year, we asked her about this scene's use of such loaded terms. "Those are words that people use towards women that narrow their existence down to their bodies, or to their sexual experiences, or lack of sexual experience," she said. "It's real and it's really damaging ... Because there's that sense of you are what you've done [sexually], or you are because you are sexual, you know? I think that girls learn that at an early age, and it's a really damaging thing that can follow you into your adulthood."

Hoping to puncture the sting of these slut-shaming terms, Reeder and IFC Midnight have been giving out buttons with the phrases, letting fans choose for themselves to reclaim these gendered insults as smirking points of pride. 

However, within the film, her heroines reject both and choose being "nothing." As Reeder explains it, "So, all that vitriol deflates when you realize that both of them actually feel invisible."

With this, Reeder hopes to "dismiss the myth of the mean girl," explaining, "I like presenting these kinds of mean girls, but then having that meanness either be explained, justified, or unraveled."

Knives and Skin is now in select theaters, on VOD and Digital HD.

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