Creeping, poetic French horror that wears classical inspirations on its sleeve while trying to nudge the genre along in bleak new directions. It's a mixed bag, really. The superficial elements - framing, effects, visual themes - are top notch, real cutting edge stuff for the period. The sympathetic lead, a young woman whose face was ravaged by a violent car accident, wears a fragile, unsettling China doll mask to conceal her disfigurements. It's an especially powerful effect when combined with the rich black-and-white film stock, which makes it difficult to determine where the mask ends and her flesh begins. Late in the picture, as the girl's mad surgeon of a father graphically peels the skin away from an unwilling donor to "fix" his daughter's wounds, it's tough not to flinch. The scene, and the concept, is that convincing, that unnerving. The plot suffers from a serious lack of depth, however, retreading the same territory several times before making any progress, and the film plods along for too long as a result. A terribly loud, mismatched score further sours matters, flooding the room with brow-furrowing carnival music at regular intervals. It's a curious relic, one which clearly influenced a whole new generation of filmmakers in the years after its release, but probably works better as an exercise of original theories than a complete picture.