I’m going to keep this review a little more succinct than usual seeing as this movie came out almost 4 years ago and probably isn’t at the top of everyone’s ‘to watch’ list. I just happened to catch it last night and felt the need to review it, because, well, that’s kinda what I do. Right?
Anyway, for those who don’t know, I love home invasion movies. They are tied with ‘hillbilly horror’ for my favorite horror sub-genre. And if you combine the two — say, Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs — well then, I’m one happy pup. (In fact, Straw Dogs might’ve even been the movie that really solidified my love of both sub-genres.) That being said, there isn’t really a hell of a whole lot you can do with either of those genres outside of the most simple, straight-forward storylines, especially now — some 40 years after they made their entrance into the scene. The basics work best, but again — if you’ve seen one, it’s pretty safe to say you’ve seen them all.
With that in mind, In Their Skin is a fairly standard entry in the home invasion genre, one that I’ve seen a million times before.
A couple and their young son move into a wooded lakeside cottage for a temporary break from life. The couple’s daughter was just killed in an accident, so they’ve gotten out of the city and secluded themselves in hopes of facilitating the grieving process. Soon after settling in, there’s a knock at the door and they’re greeted by an almost identical family — mother, father, and son, all roughly the same age — who apparently live on the other side of the lake. They make plans for dinner that night, and well, you can see where this is headed. After dinner, the ‘neighbors’ reveal their true intentions and the grieving family finds themselves in for a night of torture.
Everyone does a great job in their respective roles (the evil couple’s son is particularly nasty), but the movie itself is another story. It is occasionally entertaining and even manages to ratchet up some tension with some awkward, uncomfortable scenes early on, but ultimately it suffers from stringing together one too many tired plot devices — everyone seems to be afflicted by “delayed reaction time” — to be thoroughly enjoyable in the end. I hate the “delayed reaction time” device. Characters who have the opportunity to run, but don’t; antagonists who have the opportunity to kill the protagonist, but don’t. Look, I am willing to suspend disbelief for zombies, monsters, and ghosts. But home invasion is supposed to feel real. Having your characters do unrealistic things in a realistic situation is a cop out.
Finally, the end is surprisingly abrupt. Hurried, even. For all its build up, you’d think the movie would be headed toward a nail-biting climax. But it doesn’t. The ending almost feels tacked on or improvised. It’s very strange and I can’t help but wonder if it was a decision by the studio to alter the ending. Also, there are hints at a subplot involving Selma Blair’s grieving mother character, possibly carrying on an affair? It’s very odd and seems to have been edited out in post, but there are remnants scattered throughout the film that suggest it. Only adds to the head-scratching.
Oh, and the movie is super desaturated. Easy on the color grading, guys.