The Hughes cottage vacation is violently interrupted by a family on a murderous and identity stealing journey, in search of the “perfect” life.
After the accidental death of their daughter, Mark and Mary (Joshua lose and Selma Blair, respectively) load up their car with their dog, surviving son (Quinn Lord), and a ton of cliches. In an effort to fix their crumbling marriage,they do what any grieving family would do and head out for a tense getaway at a family owned house located in the middle of the woods, in the middle of winter, in the middle of nowhere. Once there, they engage in such fun filled activities as crying while having sex, staring at nothing, and having conversations that feature lines like “do you miss us?”….
One early morning they are awakened by an unsolicited firewood drop off by their jittery, odd neighbours, (also a married couple with a young son) who seem real eager to have dinner with them. Mark and Mary decide to mix it up at the old old homestead, and have them over for quite possibly the most awkward meal time sharing ever captured on film. Things get even more awkward when the guests’ son attacks Mark and Mary’s kid. This leads to an unceremonious toss out, which , as night falls, leads to the realization that the obviously unhinged neighbours are hiding out in the woods , hell bent on turning the family vacation house into a panic room.
“In their Skin” is, essentially, a paint by numbers “traumatized family gets home invaded” type horror film, albeit with a semi-baffling, mostly boring Stockholm syndrome/identity thievery aspect . It pulls out all the predictable stops, such as the age old ‘family member/friend gets called when it becomes apparent that the home is being invaded, and they show up at what is supposed to be an especially suspenseful moment” bit.
it’s hard to find a way in emotionally while watching the film, and and that probably has a lot to do with the fact that all of the character are utterly charmless and impossible to relate to. The male antagonist (played by James D’Arcy), despite wielding a shotgun aimed at the terrified family, doesn’t actually come across as scary. He seems to be struggling with finding the balance between eccentric and creepy, but ends up just being a gray , uninteresting villain whose motives for attacking the family and appropriating their identity are murky at best. As his wife, the normally good Rachel Miner plays a wide eyed, dopey second fiddle who wanders through the film being irritating and never locating her express purpose for being on screen at all.
The death of his child seems to have given Mark a tragic affliction that renders him the unable to unfurrow his brow. I’m not entirely sure if his performance was any good, since I was too distracted by his permanently crumpled forehead to notice anything else he was doing.
The most unfortunate casualty is the usage of Selma Blair. At 40, the quirky, mainly character actress is sadly now being given the uninteresting “mom” roles, and the role of Mary is no different. However, in typical form, she makes the most of her screen time and holds the films flimsy plot up as best as she and with a stellar performance. Her scenes with her on camera son are especially good.
The film suffers from a massive mediocrity infection, but there are moments- small moments, where the film almost seems interesting. The tension filled dinner features scenes of the type of stilted conversations that people in real life actually have. There are also times when the film gets compellingly experimental, like during a brief yet disturbing scene of sexual assault. Inevitably, however, these parts do not lead to anything that makes the film truly interesting.
All in all, it feels like this film is trying to say something, make a point of its tedious storyline and not just ape what has already been before it. But, for whatever reason, like a hostage with a cop in front of them, and a gun pressed against their back by their captor, it never seems to say what it really wants to.
In Their Skin (2012)