In The Strangers, freaky people in masks just show up and stab the protagonists. That’s pretty much all there is to it. I’ve never understood why some people find that movie even remotely entertaining, much less scary. Any good home invasion movie should have that early stage where the home invaders aren’t outed yet. For instance, in Funny Games, two dudes just want to borrow some eggs. In Straw Dogs, the local contractors are just a bit lazy. In Wait Until Dark, Richard Crenna is just a family friend. If you’re going to show up in creepy masks and just start stabbing people, I might as well watch Halloween.
In Their Skin, from first-time director Jeremy Regimbal and written by lead actor Joshua Close, is at its best during these early stages. It plays like a black comedy about the anxiety of meeting new people, about adjusting to unfamiliar social beats, about talking to people who seem like not-people wearing people disguises to study actual people. It’s the horror movie equivalent of a sitcom like Third Rock from the Sun, where the supposedly normal family is slightly askew in its attempt to seem normal.
James D’Arcy, whose interrogator was the least freaky non-Asian Asian in Cloud Atlas, is this movie’s greatest asset for his off-kilter eager friendliness and his fascinating Cumberbatch-esque face. But you also have to credit Rachel Miner — I didn’t recognize her, but she apparently had a stretch on Supernatural — for what she does with the usual supporting wife role. That’s the sort of look in your eye that only a good actress can fake. Her attempt at grief is one of the movie’s most startling moments.
Unfortunately, In Their Skin makes the mistake of ultimately being about the wrong group of characters. But until that happens, it’s a canny home invasion movie that takes the concept of class envy to a new level.
In Their Skin is available on DVD and VOD (watch it on Amazon.com here to support Qt3).