In Their Skin review

by Chris Conway


Violation of Personal Space Goes to the Next Level: a review of In Their Skin
When I sat down to watch the screener copy of In Their Skin, I promised myself I would keep as much of my pre-existing emotion out of the viewing.  I needed to enter into this contract with myself because the film was billed as a “Home Invasion Story.” The outlying factor for me being, I would be viewing it from my suburban, central Connecticut home less than 15 miles from the site of the infamous Petit family home invasion killings. This brutal act has been one of the most talked about in America since Sharon Tate and three others’ were murder at the hands of The Manson Family in August 1969.  My issue being that there is a fine line between artistic license and exploitation – and film companies all too often side with the latter.
In viewing In Their Skin in the most objective manner possible, given the above circumstances, I can honestly say that director Jeremy Regimbal and writer/actor Joshua Close have packaged a work that relies more on inaction than action to unnerve the viewer.  
The story concerns itself with the Hughes family (Selma Blair, Joshua Close & Quinn Lord), who retreat to their isolated, provincial home in the country.  It is here that they seek solace from their hectic suburban life to heal themselves in the aftermath of the accidental death of their six-year old daughter/sister.  In the early morning hours following their arrival they are awoken by some seemingly well-intentioned neighbors led by husband/father, Bobby (James D’Arcy).  The good neighbors convince the Hughes’s to have them back over later in the day in the interest of neighborly bonding. The overall predictability of what ensues from the social call is necessary to move the plot.  It is here that In Their Skin takes the ‘road less traveled’ by relying on the director and actors – and not the special effects department – to bring the audience into the Hughes’s night of terror.
Don’t get me wrong, the film is violent in spite of breaking away from many conventions of invasion tales. Regimbal however is in complete control of the piece.  He drives the narrative in a very steady, precise manner.  He shows you what he wants you to see, when he wants you to see it and not a frame sooner.  The neighbors don’t want to take what belongs to the Hughes-but they want what they have.  They don’t want to kill the Hughes-they want to become the Hughes.
All of principal actors, who are challenged by various shifts in complexity of their dealings with each other, mesh as a tightly stitched fabric.  The dynamics of the relationships turn in on themselves at times even within a single sentence. This excellence includes the two young actors who portray the sons of each family. 
Darcy’s nervous energy and angst ridden performance make you want to reach out and shake him back into reality, knowing full well you will be bitten. He is a fitting companion to Rachel Miner’s Jane, whose words are those of an innocent bystander who calls 911 while pouring gasoline on her burning home.
Like two mimes trapped on opposite sides of the ‘invisible wall’, Blair and Close demonstrate a realistic frustration and compassion for each other in the ways their characters deal with the loss of their child.  Blair particularly has grown very naturally into playing the role of overwhelmed wife and strong, protective mother who retains her own identity beyond her societal roles.
Unlike its predecessors in the ‘home invasion’ sub-genre such as Them and Funny Games, In Their Skin (which was originally titled Replicas) concerns itself less with the physical and more with the psychological, and in some cases spiritual, aspects of personal violation.  The film’s tag line, “Yours in the life they’ve chosen,” adequately speaks to the roots of its terror.

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