SPOILER: Title is not literal. Just a heads up. Sickos.
Directed by: Jeremy Power Regimbal
Stars: Selma Blair, Joshua Close, Rachel Miner, and James D’Arcy
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Home invasion movies are usually pretty violent affairs. Degradation, torture, and rape are often the instruments they utilize, which can become tiresome if not properly executed. With these films, the filmmakers are more interested in how the villains invade the home and torment it’s inhabitants, and not necessarily why they are doing it. Now, we have a new home invasion movie, IN THEIR SKIN, which places the importance on the latter question.
With IN THEIR SKIN, we are introduced to the Hughes, a family staying at their country home as they cope with the tragic death of one of their own. Early one morning, some neighbors, the Sykowskis, show up to welcome them to the neighborhood. As their interactions subtly change from awkward to alarming, the Hughes find themselves in a dangerous struggle with the other family, whose goals seem to include assuming their identity. No matter the cost.
IN THEIR SKIN is a slow-paced and very calculated film. It’s a quiet home invasion movie, with an emphasis on characters over violence. It isn’t particularly scary or frightening, but the film does build suspense and tension pretty well. The only problem, and it’s kind of a major one, is that the film feels like it is missing a climax. The conflict sets itself up with surgical precision, but then it resolves itself with no real emotional catharsis or payoff. This results in a viewing experience that, in the end, is somewhat hollow and not very satisfying.
Outside of that plot structure complaint, the script by Joshua Close is actually very good. The characters specifically are exceptionally strong and well-drawn. This allows the actors to shine, and shine they do. Everybody in this movie is absolutely terrific. Selma Blair and screnwriter Joshua Close deliver challenging, tormented performances as the Hughes. James D’Arcy is remarkably deceptive and conniving as the primary antagonist. Even the two kids, played by Quinn Lord and Alex Ferris, are impressive in the limited screentime they receive. Rachel Miner, however, has the standout, awards-worthy performance of the film. She exudes fragility and wide-eyed wonder, which is then offset by her aloof detachment and compulsion for mimicry. It’s a devastating potrayal, instilling equal parts sympathy and disgust within the viewer.
Jeremy Power Regimbal‘s direction is assured and confident. He employs steady, lingering takes to tell the story instead of the handheld docu-style approach most use with films such as these. There’s no false sense of chaos or anarchy. He allows the moments to speak for themselves. The lighting, editing, and music score help give weight and authenticity to this as well. It’s a handsome production overall.
IN THEIR SKIN is about damaged people desperate to make themselves whole again, and the horrible lengths some will go to achieve that end. A lackluster finalé holds the film back from being the complete package, but solid filmmaking and amazing performances make it a worthwhile experience.
IN THEIR SKIN is now available on IFC VOD and via iTunes, Amazon Streaming, XBOX Live, and PSN. It opens in select theaters November 9, 2012. It can be fairly recommended by this critic.