In Their Skin (2012)
Directed By Jeremy Power Regimbal
For his debut feature, budding director Jeremy Power Regimbal helms a solid, albeit universal, screenplay (written by co-star Joshua Close) about home invasion and a family’s instinctual need for survival that manages to surpass expectations with its nihilistic nature that slowly builds with the audience’s morbid curiosity.
Originally titled Replicas (which may have been too on the nose for viewers’ likings), In Their Skin sets its incredibly bleak tone right off the bat by introducing the audience to the Hughes family after losing their six-year-old daughter in a tragic accident. Months later the unhappily married couple, Mark and Mary (respectively played by Close and Blair), take their young son, Brendon (Quinn Lord), on a retreat to their fancy cottage home in the woods in an attempt to salvage their broken marriage if they can hide the emotional turmoil and deeply scarring disdain they have for each other.
Needless to say, their bid for a happy family vacation turns into a fleeting pipe dream early on and is promptly interrupted by the early morning and uninvited arrival of the Sakowsky family. It is obvious that there is something off with the far too kind Bobby (D'Arcy), Jane (Miner) and their son, Jared (Alex Ferris), from the get-go, but because of the Hughes’ need to appear like a happy family and escape from being alone in the same room with one another, they make the mistake of inviting the neighbors into their home. Soon they discover the Sakowsky family's true and deadly intentions and must rely on one another to fight and stay alive.
There is nothing particularly original about In Their Skin's "dime a dozen" premise that horror fans have seen countless times in home invasion thrillers like Funny Games, Inside, Ils and The Strangers. In spite of this, it is able to set itself apart from the staples in the sub-genre by providing a character-based drama with rich and notable performances that would be just as compelling to watch without the horror element. The film is an impeccable example that showcases how any familiar scenario in a horror film can be terrifying and nail-biting if it features fleshed-out and empathetic characters viewers can relate to.
What makes In Their Skin a competently made slow-burning horror film is that unlike other home invasion films, it doesn't focus its energy on masked killers and gory set pieces. Instead, it focuses on building the tension early on and the looming ambiguity of the villains’ intentions, which, if done correctly (like it is in this film), can make for an even more frightening and uncomfortable watch.
Overall, In Their Skin is a skillful Canadian horror indie from first-time director Regimbal that is able to overcome its generic concept with an innovative and clever approach.
3 1/2 out of 5