In Their Skin (2012) Review

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This horror-thriller is the directorial feature-film debut from Jeremy Power Regimbal and is a story of obsession, intrusion and the terror of having your home invaded by strangers. Shot in Canada on a pretty-meager budget, comparisons have been made to Funny Games (1997) and rightfully-so, it shares many elements with it.

We meet Mark and Mary, a couple who have successful careers, who, along with their eight year old son Brendon, go to stay in their family cottage situated in a secluded area surrounded by woodland. The loss of their daughter shows us that the family are attempting to mourn and get back to “normal” but are struggling to move past the tragic events that have befell them. We see that someone is watching the house, and soon we are introduced to Bob and Jane, and their nine year old son, Jared, who claim to be neighbours and greet Mary and Mark with firewood and a forceful-yet-friendly way of inviting themselves to dinner. The friendly demeanour of these “neighbours”, Bob in particular, crumbles as we watch the dinner party unfold and these strangers ask personal and invasive questions to the reluctant and concerned Mark and Mary. The tension grows and the situation escalates when Mark demands that these strange people leave his home after their son, Jared, holds a knife to Brendon’s throat after he won a round of a video game against him. What follows is a sinister and psychotic series of events as these demented intruders stalk and assault the home of this family who just wanted some peace and quiet in their cottage.

Selma Blair and Joshua Close play Mary and Mark, and they do a good job of showing a couple struggling through tragedy and attempting to find some semblance of peace in their lives. The fear, and desperation, of the two is evident throughout, and I thought they did a good job here. James D’Arcy, as “Bob” is the schizophrenic villain of the tale, presenting a character who, to begin with, appears friendly, if a little socially inept, yet we see him unfold and deteriorate into a psychopath who reveals his true reasons for doing what he does. The performance is very good, and though we don’t go as deep as I’d have liked into “Bob” and what drives him, D’Arcy was convincing and unsettling. Rachel Miner, as Jane, was the best part of the film for me. Her delusional and naïve nature conflicting with the acts that she, along with her two co-conspirators, is committing, she brings about a character who I wanted to learn more about and see more of, which can only be a good thing. The two young actors, Quinn Lord and Alex Ferris, who played Brendon and Jared, did a decent job too, their roles involving very little beyond holding a gun and appearing menacing, in Ferris’s case, and appearing scared and confused, in the case of Lord, but they were fine, and vital to the story. The whole cast did a good job, taking the pretty simple and unremarkable script and making it flow. The atmosphere was dark and menacing, and though the actions rarely lived up the potential and the promise of the story and the characters’ reactions, it was still entertaining and offered some good tension.

It’s fairly provocative and the performances are very good, but sadly it falls victim to its lack of originality with what it does. I’ve seen everything that happens in this film before, from the actions of the antagonists, to the reactions of our innocent victims, and it does become a hindrance to the overall enjoyment of the experience. Still, that aside, it is a well done movie, and the cast do a good job in each of their roles. The writing, while decent, is very slight in terms of the dialogue, something I felt stopped me from truly feeling for the characters deeply. The development, with everyone, is kept to a minimum, too much of a minimum in my view. It isn’t different enough from the rest of the crowd to break any barriers, and not shocking enough to turn too many heads, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad film, and I do recommend it if you like home invasion horror or the aforementioned “Funny Games”.

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