In Their Skin

Reviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 09/06/12 09:17:59

"Taking home invasion to the next level."
5 stars (Awesome)

SCREENED AT THE 2012 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: It strikes me as extremely unlikely that anybody else will go into "Replicas" with the same expectations I had - not having reached the "R" section of the program, I had somehow got it in my head that this was a science-fiction thing, with robots or clones or something ("In Their Skin", the other title its listed under online, gives the same impression). I was way off, but not in any way disappointed; it's a tense, well-honed thriller that puts a nifty twist on a creaky set-up.

Mark (co-writer Joshua Close), Mary (Selma Blair), and their son Brendon (Quinn Lord) are heading to their vacation home, but without a great deal of joy: They're bundled up because it's the off-season; the wound of Brendon's sister's death is still raw; and the family is ready to fall apart. And they're not as alone as they might expect - new neighbors Bobby (James D'Arcy), Jane (Rachel Miner), and their own son Jared (Alex Ferris) are eager to make friends, despite the grieving family really being in no mood.

What this evolves into is, in the broad strokes, predictable enough that it qualifies as a sub-genre of its own, although "home invasion thriller" is both a dryly technical term and implies that a specific sort of underlying tension is going to be driving the story. And while, sure, there is a fair amount of "presumed safety revealed as an illusion" here, it seems decidedly secondary to other elements, and it's the motivations beyond the usual simple greed and revenge that make this one interesting.

But, having come in not knowing much of anything, I don't want to say too much, even though it's likely that every preview that will be cut for it and the title(s) will make me seem far too cautious. Let's just say that director Jeremy Regimbal makes good use of the cast's symmetry, both as part of the story and how he presents things visually. Past a certain point, the script doesn't really go in for surprises, but Regimbal and Close do a fine job of alternating between slowly tightening the situation up and suddenly making things a whole lot worse (movement in the other direction is, as you might expect, rare). Though the movie does have a torment phase, it avoids doling out punishment just to get a rise out of the audience.

It's a well-shot picture as well, nice enough that I hope to get a chance to see it in actual 35mm at some point. Regimbal and company compose shots carefully, precisely choosing how characters pair and square off even when there are a half-dozen people in the frame. There's a pall over the interior shots, while the exteriors communicate a chill in the air that reflects the characters, while mist and fog seem to herd them into this tiny world.

The cast is solid, without any weak links. Blair and Close bring a stark reality to their characters, who are low in a way that is past sadness. There's a genuine tragedy tot he way they go through the motions of life and seem helpless to do anything but have the worst reaction to anything the other does. Quinn Lord is smart enough not to act overly confused and bitter at first, but does a great job selling fear later. On the other side of the coin, D'Arcy, Miner, and Ferris complement them well, supplying different kinds of mania and aggression that only needs the slightest bit of exposition to become a full story of their own.

The end of the movie sums this up nicely; even as the suspense and the confrontations are winding down, "Replicas" is still a potent mix of sorrow and envy. A lot of movies of its type are simply in it for the shock of the violence, but this one has everyone interesting for who they are, not just what they represent.

© Copyright HBS Entertainment, Inc.