Class envy leads to Funny Games-ish home invasion in In Their Skin. Jeremy Power Regimbal’s feature debut concerns a trip taken by real estate developer Mary (Selma Blair), lawyer husband Mark (Joshua Close), and their son, Brendon (Quinn Lord), to a remote mountain vacation home, where the couple hopes to more adequately come to grips with the accidental death of youngest daughter Tess. After some de facto Shining-style aerial shots of the family car traversing winding forested roads, Regimbal delivers a beautiful zoom out from a distressed Mary, momentarily thinking Brendon has gone missing at a gas station, that subtly suggests her alienating fear and loneliness—emotions which are otherwise made plain by overdone mascara that makes her appear to have been incessantly crying. At the house, the duo is woken up one morning by Bobby (James D’Arcy), his wife, Jane (Rachel Miner), and their son, Jared (Alex Ferris), whose physical resemblance to the homeowners becomes even creepier once this neighboring clan arrives later that day for lunch. There, they begin questioning Mark and Mary in-depth about their lives while also mimicking their gestures, a situation that eventually leads to testy discomfort, an abrupt end to the get-together, and— stop me if you’ve seen this before—increasingly hostile behavior from Bobby and his clearly unhinged clan.
Up until the moment that Mark—having learned that Bobby and/or Jared has killed his dog—ventures into the dark woods alone with a knife, In Their Skin has its characters act rather believably, underplaying its villains’ menacing true intentions just enough to keep Mark and Mary’s lack of panicked action credible. Even after Mark’s obviously idiotic decision to put himself in harms way thrusts the material into more overtly movie-ish territory, Regimbal can’t muster suspense, in part because Mark and Mary’s anguish over their child and disaffection with each other is handled too routinely—via visually alienating imagery and Blair and Close’s quiet, sorrowful shared glances—to create rooting interest in their survival. As the title implies, Bobby and company’s true aim is not just to terrorize, but also to assume the identities of their victims. Alas, Joshua Close’s script saddles that objective with leaden class-conscious underpinnings, with Bobby ranting and raving toward film’s conclusion that he chose Mark and Mary because they represent “the perfect family.” With the proceedings too flimsy to fully shoulder such social concerns, and too often determined to pull its grim-and-nasty punches (highlighted by a centerpiece would-be rape sequence), In Their Skin winds up turning itself into just a rote thriller about psychos learning that, appearance notwithstanding, every family has dysfunctional problems.