‘In Their Skin’ loses much of its surprise and distinction by the second act

In Their Skin

Director by Jeremy Power Regimbal

Written by Joshua Close

Canada, 2012

Following a still raw and recent family tragedy, Mark (Joshua Close), Mary (Selma Blair), and their nine-year-old son Brendon (Quinn Lord) take a therapeutic sylvan sabbatical to their family cottage. One morning, they are unceremoniously introduced to the Zakowski’s, an overly ingratiating family consisting of a married couple, Bobby and Jane, and their big-for-his-age son Jared (James D’Arcy, Rachel Miner, Alex Ferris). After, when Mark is obligated to invite them over to dinner, things start to spiral into a dark and perilous situation when the true intentions of the Zakowski’s are slowly revealed.

Initially, In Their Skin is often gripping and tense. The film plays on a primal level of fear that we can all identify with, the fear of letting something dangerous into our homes. The characters are put into real and unavoidable situations (ones stemming from our responsibility to adhere to social graces), making the tension and scares all the more real. The presence of the Zakowski’s are immediately disconcerting, and, in a case of poetic irony, we already know that bad things are imminent, but because of expected etiquette, Mark and Mary are essentially ‘forced’ to put themselves in danger.

The slow simmering and insidious build up of sinister events is the highlight of the film (especially a particularly uneasy dinner table scene), and there’s some nice commentary about class and material envy, but In Their Skin loses a level of believability once it kicks into a higher gear; at which point, it becomes another fairly generic if still watchable home invasion movie. Once things get out of hand, it can be hard to really believe the rationale behind character motivations, even with the film’s extensive character exposition.

There’s some really good acting in the film, with the performances of the off-putting Ms. Miner and the tormented Ms. Blair as standouts, but the movie becomes predictable and by-the-numbers. Perhaps it’s too reminiscent of Michael Haneke’s Funny Games, or perhaps it’s the heavy-handed and obvious title, but In Their Skin loses much of its surprise and distinction by the second act.

– Justin Li

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