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October 25, 2017

In Their Skin

by Franz Patrick


In Their Skin (2012)
★ / ★★★★

The Hughes family, grieving from a recent loss of a loved one, retreats to a cottage up in the mountains with hopes of getting closer and healing together. A peaceful morning is broken by a family of three, Bobby (James D’Arcy), Jane (Rachel Miner), and Jared (Alex Ferris), who tell Mark (Joshua Close), upset from the ruckus in his private property, that they mean only to drop off spare firewood as a welcoming gift. Soon enough, Brendon (Quinn Lord), Mark’s son, is woken up and a get-together later that afternoon is agreed upon despite Mary (Selma Blair), Mark’s wife, not feeling up to it.

The funny thing about home invasion movies is that, like comedies, it is easy to determine whether it works. For the latter, it is funny or it isn’t. For the former, it is thrilling or it isn’t. “In Their Skin,” written by Joshua Close and directed by Jeremy Power Regimbal, comes off as a diluted and less focused version of Michael Haneke’s “Funny Games.” The images on screen are supposed to be shocking in content, but they feel too restrained to be worthy of comprehensive social commentary.

In order for us to care for the family being invaded, there must be several good reasons to root for them to come out on the other side in one piece. Instead, the exposition is comprised mostly of the couple looking cold and sad. Their marital disconnect is painted with heavy-handed strokes that it rivals the most serious dramas. There is an amusingly awkward love scene where Mark makes the first move but Mary is not that into it. There are signs that Mary might be having an affair but the material veers away from it. As it goes through the motions, it becomes so depressing that we actually look forward to the breaking of the stupor.

The bizarre family is reduced to habits. While the point is that they do not have identities of their own, it is too easy to figure out what they are thinking and what they are about to do once the twist, a very predictable one at that, is revealed. Still, there is one scene I liked that takes place at the dinner table involving Bobby “accidentally” getting water all over himself and Mark offering to lend him a shirt. Although what is being communicated is obvious, its execution is appropriately slow. It gives us enough time to really observe facial expressions—even though the camera is pulled back a bit—as intentions creep away from the shadows.

It fails to play us like a piano. The majority of the time is dedicated to the Hughes experiencing different kinds of horror and humiliation. It is not thrilling in the least since it runs around in circles. I wondered when they would finally, if at all, get the upper hand.

“In Their Skin” does not require the audience to think, to feel, or to experience anything of much value. I sat in my chair, bored, and looked at the screen wanting to be shaken. When it was all over, the feeling I had was akin to getting up from the dentist’s chair: relief that I can finally stretch, move around, and forget about the past hour or so.

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