In regards to some neighbors, a background check is a necessity.
The original title of In Their Skin was “Replicas,” and it was a wise decision to change the name from something that sounds more like a cheap science fiction movie to a title that represents the film much more appropriately. Directer Jeremy Power Regembal and writer/star Joshua Close deliver an engaging and disturbing film about a family who completely ignore the commandment “Thou shall not covet.”
Mark and Mary Hughes are escaping to their remote country cottage, with son Brendan in tow, after a family tragedy. Just as they arrive, overly friendly neighbors Bobby and Jane Sakowski and their son Jared invite themselves over for lunch. Once inside Mark and Mary’s home, the couple realizes far too late that the Sakowski’s are after much more than a friendship.
Let me say upfront that In Their Skin is not a horror movie! I’m not knocking it; on the contrary, this is a really good film with solid acting and a story that leaves the viewer feeling frustratingly uncomfortable — and I think it’s supposed to. Staring Selma Blair (Hellboy) and Joshua Close (The Master) as Mark and Mary Hughes, this film was doomed from the start by bad marketing that categorized it as a horror movie. And no matter how good a film is, if you expect horror and instead get drama with a touch of a thriller and some suspenseful undertones, you may walk away a little disappointed. Do not worry your pretty little head about genre however, regardless of the confusion, this is a film worth paying attention to.
The premise of In Their Skin is disturbing because it could happen to us in our daily lives. Invincible killers in masks and houses that haunt their occupants can be frightening while watching the film, but once you exit the theater you can write off most of what happens as made up movie madness. With In Their Skin that’s a little harder to do, mainly because of the convincing performances by the films’ stars. The actors successfully communicate how the characters are feeling, not just verbally, but with facial expressions and body language.
Blair and Close are very good as Mark and Mary, but James D’Arcy (Hitchcock) and Rachel Miner turn in the film’s stand out performances. As Bobby Sakowski, D’Arcy is a demented psychopath who has dangerous designs on Mark and Mary. He isn’t physically imposing, but unnerving and unpredictable — you’re never quite sure what he’s going to do, and this has you on the edge of your seat from the very first moment we meet him. Bobby’s erratic behavior is what takes In Their Skin from what could be a simple drama into an intense thriller.
Rachel Miner as Jane is, quite frankly, insane, but she is a perfect complement to Bobby. Her performance is beautifully understated; vacillating between someone you empathize with and someone you want to beat about the head. She admires Mary, and wants to be that woman — even emulating Mary’s mannerisms. Jane doesn’t want to hurt the Hughes, she just wants what she perceives to be their ‘perfect’ life — one she has been denied, and the main reason she goes along with her husband’s homicidal lifestyle. Their odd relationship is in stark contrast to Mark and Mary who, although struggling to save their marriage, are on far more stable ground than their counterparts. We care about what happens to the Hughes, and with every uncomfortable and unsettling moment of Mark and Mary’s terrible weekend, we feel as if we are indeed in their skin.
This is a nice 2.40:1 Presentation, the low lighting used in each scene show the dark period the Hughes’ are dealing with, and are a harbinger of things to come. The dialogue is easy to hear thanks to the Dolby 5.1 audio, which also highlights the fine score by Keith Power. Unfortunately the extras are virtually non-existent; all that’s available is the film’s original trailer.
I say go into In Their Skin expecting anything — except a horror movie. It’s a drama and a suspenseful thriller all in one. A study of evil and how far people will go to get what they think they deserve, regardless of what they have to do to get it.
Not Guilty. The more I think about this one, the more I like it.
In Their Skin (DVD)
2013, MPI, 96 minutes, NR (2011)
VIDEO: 2.40:1 AUDIO: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English) SUBTITLES: English (SDH), Spanish
EXTRAS: Trailer ACCOMPLICES: IMDB