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Skin and Bones: A Short vs Feature Comparison of 'He Took His Skin Off For Me' and 'Bones and All'

Updated: Feb 29

Spoilers for both films contained within


Our February Shortest Night of the Month event featured a screening of Ben Aston’s horror love story He Took His Skin Off For Me (2014) and was followed by a gruesome tale of young love from the director of Call Me By Your Name, Bones And All (2022). While these films have a multitude of differences, we wanted to compare and contrast a short film and feature film that blend romance and horror in explorations of doomed love.


            Ten years on from a very successful run on the festival circuit, director Ben Aston’s short remains as unsettling and tragic as it was when it first graced the screen. Portraying the slow build-up of resentment in a romantic relationship after a man takes his skin off at the request of his girlfriend but eventually realises that his sacrifices are one-way and taken for granted. The titular action appears on-screen very realistically thanks to the work of a specialist practical effects team headed up by Colin Arthur (The NeverEnding Story, Hable Con Ella) and Jen Cardno.

What lies under the tense surface of the film is an implicit message – you’ll quickly lose your sense of identity when you change yourself for a partner who would not make that change for you. The physically gruesome appearance of the male protagonist isn’t the only way Aston’s film externalises this message. The film’s only dialogue is a voiceover narration of the female protagonist’s thoughts, with “He” being voiceless. The disintegration of their love is additionally made manifest through a slow accumulation of blood, grime, and clutter within their home, the film’s primary environment.


Comparatively, Bones and All (dir. Luca Guadagnino) is another romance-horror film that features a gory depiction of love. Based on Camille DeAngelis’ 2015 novel, Bones stars bona fide indie darlings Timothée Chalamet and Taylor Russell as two young cannibals (known as “Eaters” within the story) who cross paths in late 1980s America, eventually falling in love on their road to self-discovery.

Benefitting from the expanded length of a feature film, Bones and All has more latitude to explore its themes and character motivations than He Took His Skin Off for Me. Beginning with the female protagonist Maren Yearly (Russell), we see her initially venture into the world as a teenage social outcast searching for personal meaning and her long-lost mother, while Russell performs with a subtle and ravenous sense of yearning. Eventually meeting another Eater her own age, the brutish yet tender Lee (Chalamet) agrees to chaperone her search for her mother, and we slowly unravel the guilt that also plagues his past as the two ultimately fall in love during their journey.


These films share many similarities: the visual hallmarks of horror are immediately apparent, but in both cases are used in unconventional ways. In the case of Skin, the blood, flesh and traditional horror visuals are used to show the gradual painful decay of a once loving relationship. In the case of Bones, the brutal acts of cannibalism are the source of Maren and Lee’s bond and the underlying connective tissue that allows them to help each other break out of their isolation.


In both Skin and Bones, the disfigured human form showcases a change within a relationship. While the former makes a spectacle of the male protagonist’s unreciprocated showing of love – with his fragmented sense of self stripping his body raw – the latter film contains multiple scenes of human mutilation throughout as the young cannibals “eat” their way across the country. With each instance of cannibalism shown or discussed, attention is given to the victims’ lives in tandem with a progression of character, typically changing the course of Maren or Lee’s perspective on the morality (or lack thereof) of their actions.


By the end of each film, the unsustainable romantic relationships reach a tragic conclusion. In Aston’s short, the male protagonist’s resentment over his partner’s indifference reaches a climax resulting in an implied violent turn at the close of the film. In Guadagnino’s film, the young lovers’ doomed co-dependency reaches a violent end due to external forces rather than internal issues, as an Eater who has been stalking Maren across the country tracks her and Lee down, resulting in a grisly and tense altercation that ends with the intruder’s death and Lee fatally wounded. Knowing his chance of survival is slim-to-none, Lee begs Maren to feed on him “bones and all”, and the titular act is given life as she grants his wish in a final, desperate act of love.


Where Bones uses intentional acts of violence as an indicator of Lee and Maren’s commitment to each other in the most twisted way possible, Skin uses violence in its imagery and the gentle indifference of its female protagonist to the pain of her partner. Both films are incredibly inventive in their characterisation and serve as examples of how introspective explorations of harmful love can be accomplished in both the short and feature film mediums.


You can see Ben Aston talk about He Took His Skin Off For Me at our 'Shortest Night of the Month' filmmaker Q&A now by joining the Launchpad Membership. Click here for more information and join today!

Watch He Took His Skin Off For Me by clicking here and watch Bones And All on Amazon Prime Video today.

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