In Their Skin (2012)
Director: Jeremy Power Regimbal
Writers: Joshua Close
Starring: Selma Blair, Joshua Close and James D’Arcy

The Plot: Mary (Selma Blair) and Mark Hughes (Josh Close) are a married couple who are currently grieving over the death of their daughter. Their grief has put a heavy strain on their marriage, but the couple try their best to hold it together for their surviving son Brendon (Quinn Lord). This family tries to escape their worries by heading off to a cottage that they have in the woods, but this trip is soon going to become a nightmare. While adjusting to their situation, the Hughes family are approached by their new neighbors Bobby (James D’Arcy), Jane (Rachel Miner), and their son Jared (Alex Ferris). While this family acts a little strange at first, they ultimately seem harmless. After they are invited to dinner though, these neighbors prove to be the family from hell. They are pushy, awkward, and even seem a bit violent. After the Hughes family kicks this group from their home, they are soon faced with the wrath of the strange group from next door. What follows is a night of hell and torment as Bobby and his family try to torture the Hughes household and take over their identity.

The Review
Stop me if this sounds slightly familiar: a grieving set of parents reeling from the death of their child move out to a secluded home in the woods while dealing with their strained relationship. Sounds a bit like Lars Von Trier’s Anti-Christ, I know. What happens when you take this simple premise, but then throw in an entirely new home invasion element that seems inspired by Funny Games? Well, you’re likely left with a movie that is more than a little wild. While the prospect of these two movies being mixed together might seem a bit on the derivative side, the overall effect is surprisingly original in its tone. A dark and unnerving blend of horror movie thrills with character driven angst, In Their Skin is a button pusher that refuses to take it easy on the audience. While it will have varying effects, depending on the viewer, the novelty of how this movie manages to throw a proverbial shove into its audience’s shoulder makes for quite the experience.

From the very beginning, viewers can rest assured that they are in the hands of a competent filmmaker. Starting off with a beautiful opening shot that is reminiscent of David Lynch’s Lost Highway or the music video “Rabbit in Your Headlights” by the band Unkle, we are first shown a lone man running down a dark road whilst the camera is perched on top of a dashboard inside of a following car. The scene is very simple, but it is dark, ominous, and extremely effective in setting a tone early. This sequence is made even more shocking when the scene culminates in the execution of the man who was running. At this point, the movie has made a very solid and shocking impression on its audience. It establishes a derelict and dangerous looking atmospheric surrounding, and the woods have never seemed more claustrophobic. The aura that surrounds the movie is essentially etched in stone after only a few minutes, and the movie shows no intentions of trying to break away from this. The photography is certainly a large part in delivering this distressed environment. The handheld camera movement, which always seems to hover and shake, rarely gives the audience a moment of calm that would allow them to catch their breath. From the creepy atmosphere of the early first half to the tensions that arise once the film becomes a full fledged “home invasion” movie, In Their Skin always tries to push the audience.

Selma Blair has been a favorite of mine since Cruel Intentions, but after that movie what heterosexual teenage boy wouldn’t say the very same thing? The young actress has had back and forth bouts of popularity, but she had at least one sizable franchise in the form of Hellboy. So, I have enjoyed watching her career from a distance, but I have always hoped to see her become a huge star in the world of film. While In Their Skin is far from being the big breakout role that will do this for the actress, it shows a side of her abilities that I had never seen before. At the same time, the movie is filled with some very strong performers that I had no familiarity with before this movie. Joshua Close, James D’Arcy, Rachel Miner, and the young actors Quinn Lord and Alex Farris, all are fantastic in their individual roles. D’Arcy who plays the awkward lunatic Bobby is suitably monstrous within his role. In the introduction, his character is at first merely socially awkward, but as the movie progresses, he finally showcases a grim violence that will put all of the other characters in this story under a tremendous amount of pressure. This well put-together cast may be the most integral part of the success of In Their Skin. Although it may not be a perfect movie, it is certainly perfectly played.

While I think there are few who would argue that In Their Skin is a subliminal movie rife with subtext, it does seem to have a few central themes that drive the movie and its characters. Having the two leads grieving for their daughter is a nice way for the film to go into some interesting thematic waters when dealing with parenthood, marriages, and in the case of Mark, the patriarch, he is forced into questioning his own masculine identity. Some of these things lie beneath the surface, but some of these issues are tackled up front and center. Similar to what went on with Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs, the character of Mark is a man who approaches life from a passive frame of mine. However, when confronted with another more aggressive male figure, he must eventually find his own manhood if he wants his family to survive this situation. This, along with the detachment that his wife feels for him because he seems to continually draw other people into their lives, makes for some interesting subtext in the midst of the general chaos that this movie intends to inflict.

The Conclusion
While In Their Skin isn’t perfect, not by a longshot, it does manage to infuriate the audience in the best way possible. It leads its audience down several roads and then quickly abandons them for pain and torment. If the point for the movie is to be an unnerving thriller, then you have to commend it for being a total success. It does feature many influences that stop it from being wholly original, but as it stands, this is one dark thriller that will leave audiences furious by its manipulation. Maybe I’ll regret it later, but I think this is one that certainly deserves being checked out: I give it a four out of five.