Review: IN THEIR SKIN (2012) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Monday, 19 November 2012

Review: IN THEIR SKIN (2012)


Home-invasion thriller is nothing new. We have seen them before in movies like STRAW DOGS (1971), right down to FUNNY GAMES (2007) and THE STRANGERS (2008). As formulaic or shopworn that particular subgenre is, home-invasion thriller can still be a gripping cinematic experience if done with the right level of skill and intelligence. Fortunately, first-time feature director Jeremy Power Regimbal's IN THEIR SKIN (formerly known as REPLICAS -- which sounds too sci-fi for me) manages to give this an otherwise same-old genre thriller with a disturbingly edgy undertone and particularly heighten the movie with compelling performances by its leads.

The setup is familiar: upscale couple Mark and Mary Hughes (Joshua Close, Selma Blair) are trying to overcome their grief after the recent death of their young daughter in a car accident. They decide to travel to their family's country home with 8-year-old son Brendon (Quinn Lord) in hope to spend some quality time together.

After a strange encounter with a mysterious truck that pulls up to their property's gate before driving away, the couple are woken the following morning by neighbors Bobby (James D'Arcy), Jane (Rachel Miner), and their 9-year-old son Jared (Alex Ferris). Apparently they brought over firewood as a kindly gesture to welcome them as new neighbors. Although Mark is feeling weird with their off-putting behaviors, he ends up reluctantly agrees to invite them over for dinner that night. So far, so good until Bobby becomes so persistent on asking deeply personal questions, which made both Mark and Mary uncomfortable. The supposedly pleasant dinner turns even more disastrous when their son Jared puts a knife to Brendon's throat when they argue over a video game. Mark feels something is not right, and force them to leave, even though the neighbors have been repeatedly apologize.

Then that same night, it doesn't take long before Mark and Mary find themselves under siege, with their dog apparently shot somewhere in the dark woods. This time, the same neighbors forcing their way back into the house. A violent cat and mouse ensue, and the neighbors begin to reveal their true motivations. Soon the Hughes learn that their neighbors are one bizarre, yet psychotic family intends to get rid of them and assume their identities.

Director Regimbal does a good job building up the slow-burning tension piece by piece, while the sudden shock of unflinching violence is cleverly done in a restrained manner without relying heavily on elaborate gory set-piece to make its point. Co-star Joshua Close, who also writes the screenplay, gives an equally thought-provoking storyline that builds on the characters' psychological depths as well as playing the cards right on its genre convention. Meanwhile, Keith Power's bone-chilling score and Norm Li's darkly atmospheric cinematography are equally well done to provide the necessary claustrophobic feel required for this kind of genre thriller.

Above all, it was the cast that gives this movie an extra edge. Both Joshua Close and Selma Blair give emotionally compelling performances here, while James D'Arcy makes a truly creepy psychopath here. His particular scene, which is nevertheless the movie's centerpiece, involves him forcing the couple to have sex in front of him, before proceeding for a near-rape sequence between him and Mary. Rachel Miner, in the meantime, is equally creepy as a meek invader who has a disturbing mind on her own.

While there are times this home-invasion thriller does relies too much on its genre convention to get everything goes around, IN THEIR SKIN remains a solid little thriller nonetheless. Again, kudos goes to Jeremy Power Regimbal, who made a good impression with his directing debut. He is certainly a bright filmmaker to look for in the future.

No comments: