Bob (James D'Arcy) and Jane Zakowski (Rachel Miner) and their (supposedly) 9-year-old son Jared (Alex Ferris) drop by to welcome the them to the neighborhood, cordially but assertively inviting themselves to dinner at the Hughes' home that evening. Wary but not wanting to seem impolite, Mark agrees, but once the dinner begins, it doesn't take long for him to regret his choice. The Zakowskis are off-putting, grilling them on the intimate details of their lives while remaining evasive about their own background. The tone throughout the night becomes increasingly dark, and when Mark decides to kick his guests out, their true intentions become clear: they want the Hughes' lives as their own, and they're willing to go to any extreme for that goal.
The End Result
The buildup is delicious, thanks to some pointed dialogue and the unnerving performances of the antagonists, particularly James D'Arcy as the patriarch who rides the line between patronizingly polite and explosively violent. However, once the open hostilities begin, In Their Skin falls into a familiar rut, traveling down predictable paths and pulling out one genre cliché after another. The result is a toothless home invasion retread that lacks the sheer terror of The Strangers and the provocative nature of Funny Games.
Because these types of films invite you to put yourself in the shoes of the protagonists, they can prove frustrating, and In Their Skin has more than its fair share of aggravations. Botched escape attempts, illogical strategy and maddening timidity from the victims make for an eye-rolling affair, and even the villains' actions -- why not just kill the whole family right away? -- are cause for wonder. I think we're supposed to sympathize with the Zakowskis on some level, but it's hard to do when they're clearly well off their respective rockers.
For all its faults, In Their Skin remains fairly engaging because of its stellar cast and because first-time director Jeremy Power Regimbal maintains a sense of humanity and drama throughout, even though the ending wraps up too neatly in an aw-shucks manner.
- Acting: B+ (D'Arcy, Miner and Ferris steal the show as the lunatic trio.)
- Direction: C+ (Nice buildup and sense of humanity, but lacks thrills.)
- Script: D+ (A good concept devolves into predictability, illogic and an unnecessary feel-good button of an ending.)
- Gore/Effects: C (Little to speak of.)
- Overall: C (An interesting setup and tense first half go nowhere in the disappointing second half.)
In Their Skin is directed by Jeremy Power Regimbal and is not rated by the MPAA. Release date: November 9, 2012 (October 4 on demand).