Published Oct 25, 2012Drenched almost entirely in a formally composed brown-grey aesthetic, the Canadian home invasion thriller, In Their Skin, is exceedingly aware of tone and perspective, capturing solemnity and despondence through colour and eerie foreboding through stillness and deliberate pacing. It's an important balance necessary to maintain relevance seeing as the premise, wherein a family is visited by unsettling strangers while at their remote cottage, is reminiscent of other recent, rather successful, genre entries like Them and Funny Games.
Mixed in with this set up is the element of grief and defeatism with successful young couple Mary (Selma Blair) and Mark (Josh Close) grieving the death of their daughter while on a cottage trip with their surviving son Brendon (Quinn Lord). While Mark tries to hold his family together and rebuild a bond in the face of tragedy, Mary escapes from reality with wine and distancing introspection.
Contrasting this dynamic as mirrored by the visual palette is the arrival of neighbours Bobby (James D'Arcy) and Jane (Rachel Miner) along with their son Jared (Alex Ferris) early one morning with the unlikely gift of firewood and wide-eyed envy. Demonstrating off kilter body language and a strange backwoods story of living isolated without a car, they weasel their way into a culinary invite, exploiting Mark's sense of propriety and social etiquette, much to Mary's annoyance.
The strength of this compelling, yet distressing and anxiety inducing, examination of social performance, comes from the unsettling sense of impending chaos as Bobby and Jane demonstrate increasingly erratic behaviour at the central dinner party. Mary drinks and mutters veiled snide remarks while Mark tries to hold things together by asking generic small talk questions about employment and demographic background. What's discomforting about this setup, beyond the inconsistencies in back story and passive-aggressive politeness is the fact that Bobby and Jane appear to be mirroring the speech and behaviours of their hosts while asking them increasingly invasive questions.
In addition to using an imperiled family unit as metaphor for fighting grief in the face of tragedy, In Their Skin tackles the concept of success and identity as cultural performance within a vacuum of self-involvement. When living the dream or demonstrating one's external adherence to a dominant socio-economic ethos by buying big houses or parking expensive, inefficient cars in our driveways, the unspoken goal is to impress others or inspire jealousy, thus proving ourselves superior. What this genuinely creepy and smartly low-key thriller suggests is that this bid for validation may inadvertently attract the wrong kind of attention. (Kinosmith)