You Don’t Have to See It to Believe It

by Steven Cuffari

I just watched “In Their Skin,” starring Selma Blair and some other people. Honestly, I decided to watch this movie because Blair was in it, and the subject matter was something in which I thought she would be interesting to watch.

It’s not the perfect movie, but I hardly ever watch movies with those expectations. It is, however, a movie about “the perfect family.” At least, that’s what the antagonists think about Blair and her family.

Basically, we’ve seen this movie before, “Funny Games” (both of them), “the Strangers,” even “Last House on the Left” (the original) and tons more.

“In Their Skin,” is pretty much the same as many of these movies, home invasion, the perfect family, psychopaths on the hunt, it’s all in there.

As usual, the perfect family isn’t perfect, and the psychopaths have understandable but grossly misdirected desires.

People die.

The characters also make predictable mistakes for the sake of the plot. I hate this kind of thing, but it’s rampant. I try to avoid it in my stories, but I don’t blame others for not doing so.

That said, I really liked certain aspects of the movie’s development. Here goes:

We know the perfect family isn’t so perfect right from the beginning, because it is established early on that they are “getting away from it all” – “it all” being the lingering sadness brought upon by their young daughter’s accidental death.

They don’t really discuss their feelings about their loss in detail until the end. This makes for a very interesting exchange between the psychopaths and the family once they turn the tables.

Yes, this is one of those movies where the family survives by outwitting the predictably inept killers.

The male leader of the home invasion says something like, “I want that feeling. I want that life. I want what you have, the perfect family.”

While holding a gun at the home invader, the “man of the family” replies, “I killed my daughter! I forgot to pick her up from school, and she died. What’s perfect about that!?”

The killer then lunges at the man, and the man relieves him of the burden of his brains.

A well-made, although typical, movie, “In Their Skin” was enjoyable to watch, with no real surprises.

The ending was intriguing, though. After the proverbial dust has settled, the protagonist couple is being questioned by what we can assume is a therapist or someone akin to that. We don’t hear any of their answers, only the questions.

The therapist asks them how their son is doing in school after the traumatic event. From her reaction to their unheard answer, it seems he is doing well.

She asks them if they’ll sell the house. There’s no way to tell what their answer was.

Then she asks her final question. “And how about you two?”

From the leather couch in the therapist’s office, Blair and her costar look at each other, hold hands and smile.

We can take this as a happy ending, but I prefer not to.

For me, there is room to believe that the couple being questioned is not the parents of the aforementioned “perfect family,” even though they are being portrayed by the same actors.

In a twisted, morbid way, I think they can be the antagonists, smiling from behind their new facades. They successfully pulled off their attempt at getting “in their skin.”

It wasn’t the psychopaths who got killed and the end, it was the family. Their transformation was so complete that even we, the viewers, were fooled by it.

There is not much evidence for this in the film except at the end, when the matriarch of the psycho-family refuses to answer to her real name, only to the name “Mary,” Blair character’s name.

This could mean that they had already completely switched places, and the actors were now playing opposite parts.

Like I said, this theory doesn’t hold much water in terms of what is on film. But if we as film-watchers are to be implicated and involved in the film and be creative in doing so, then this analysis should be allowed.

I mean, the wry and devilish looks on the “protagonists'” faces at the end when they are smiling at each other is all I need to believe it.

Blair is perfect in this moment, from the placement of her hand on her knee to the look in her eyes and the angle of her head. Her character is completely transformed.