Editor's Note: This was originally published for FANGORIA on November 8, 2012, and we're proud to share it as part of The Gingold Files.
Most home invasions have to do with taking people’s property, but the villains of In Their Skin are after something more. The film stars Diary of the Dead’s Joshua Close, Hellboy’s Selma Blair and Quinn Lord (Trick ’R Treat’s Sam) as a grieving family recovering at their remote vacation house, and James D’Arcy (soon to be seen as Anthony Perkins in Hitchcock), Penny Dreadful’s Rachel Miner and Alex Ferris as a neighboring brood who drop by with what seem like friendly intentions that soon prove sinister. At the Tribeca Film Festival, where the movie had its world premiere under the title Replicas, Fango sat down with director Jeremy Power Regimbal, making his feature debut after helming commercials and music videos, Close, who also scripted, Miner and Lord for a lively discussion.
Josh, how did you make the transition from acting to screenwriting, and team up with Jeremy for this film?
JOSHUA CLOSE: Well, my brother Justin Close, who also produced the film, and Jeremy and myself have been collaborating on music videos for the past five or six years. So we all decided that we were going to take a road trip from Vancouver to LA and come up with a movie concept, and In Their Skin was what we came up with. Once we got to LA, I wrote the script.
Are you all fans of the home-invasion subgenre?
JEREMY POWER REGIMBAL: I really like thrillers or mysteries in general. I definitely wouldn’t say that I prefer home-invasion movies by any means. It just happened that that’s where the story led us.
RACHEL MINER: One of the things I enjoy about this film is, it doesn’t necessarily fit into that category too much. Obviously, there is a home invasion, but on the other hand, there are a lot of other characters involved and so forth. To me, that’s a make-break.
And it’s not an invasion in the violent sense; the Sakowskis worm their way into the Hugheses’ home. Was that a conscious choice, to go against the grain of this kind of film?
CLOSE: Definitely. We knew we were going to make a thriller within the confines of a house, and we wanted it to be similar to films that inspired us, like With a Friend Like Harry…, Funny Games, obviously, and The Strangers. But we wanted to add that humanity to both sides, so it wasn’t simply a slasher film.
MINER: And in that respect, when there is violence, it really impacts. It’s fun watching the movie with an audience, because at those moments where something violent does happen, people are jumping and yelping and things like that, as opposed to getting numb to it because it’s constant throughout the film. I think audiences are getting savvy at this point; genre audiences, especially, know exactly what’s going to happen next, so you have to change up the paradigm and try new things.
It is startling when the Hughes’ son is the first to be threatened, because you don’t typically see children put in too much peril in this kind of film.
CLOSE: That scene was actually improvised, wasn’t it? [Laughter from the group]
QUINN LORD: Yeah, they stuck me in the room with someone who wandered on set with a knife… “Yeah, that should be a scene.”
Were any of the scenes scary for you to do?
LORD: No, not at all.
CLOSE: No? You’re a lot tougher than all of us.
LORD: I love being held at knifepoint! [Laughter]
Josh, in terms of scripting a character for yourself, some people would be inclined to write themselves the villain’s part, which is more colorful.
CLOSE: It’s such a cool role, isn’t it? [Laughter] After I saw it, I was like, “Damn!” I didn’t write Mark for myself, actually. I just wrote the script for us to collaborate on, and I wasn’t going to be in it until about three weeks before shooting. Everyone was starting to come together, and I was like, “You know, I really want to play the part.”
Rachel, this is a very different role for you. I must admit, I didn’t recognize you in the early portions of the film.
MINER: I try to change things up as much as possible. The exciting thing about acting is getting to change and inhabit different people, and get inside their heads.
There’s great tension in the dinner-table scene; it’s clear something’s wrong with your and D’Arcy’s characters, but it takes a while for that to come out. Was it difficult to project a sense of being sinister without being too overt?
MINER: This was actually one of those times when a part is so well-written, it’s not hard to figure out what to do. That scene was a case where everything just fell together naturally. So much of my character was just about reacting to what was going on. I didn’t plan anything ahead, so I wasn’t worried about how it was going to come off—if I was going to seem weird or evil or whatever. I just was in her head as she’s constantly trying to make everything OK, and do what Bobby wants, and copy what the Hugheses are doing. It was almost like a game of “Simon says.”
REGIMBAL: Jane is so innocent and genuinely interested in them. You aren’t really trying to intimidate, and for me that’s what’s so creepy; you’re just so interested, and don’t understand why they’re getting awkward.
Was playing Jane emotionally challenging?
MINER: I have to say, as much of a rollercoaster as I was sent on as this character, I didn’t find any of it especially trying. Part of it was that when you’re working with nice people you enjoy being with, it doesn’t feel difficult. It just feels like play, even when it’s dark.
REGIMBAL: It was a very comfortable set. Everyone really got along, so I feel like we were more comfortable going to these weird, dark places. I can’t really think of something that was the most challenging, to be honest.
CLOSE: It felt more freeing at times than it did challenging.
REGIMBAL: Some of the weirdest, craziest scenes felt like they flowed and happened with the most ease, and on my first film, I was worried it was going to be the complete opposite. I was approaching some of those moments going, “Oh my God!” [Laughs]
Can you talk about working with James D’Arcy?
REGIMBAL: James was great. We had about two weeks ahead of time to rehearse and workshop the script, and he was very involved and cared about the film. Right from the first meeting, we knew he was great for the role.
CLOSE: He made a great contribution, too, because he came in about a week ahead and we collaborated on the lines. His vision was so inspiring and dead-on, and he had a lot to do with the creation of Bobby.
MINER: He was awesome to work with. From the first day, he made me feel so comfortable, and we had awesome discussions. He was very passionate about making it the best film he could, and I was impressed across the board. And he did the accent really well.
CLOSE: He didn’t drop it! It was great.
REGIMBAL: We shot it in 16 days, and he made a comment early on that he had to know his lines like this was a play, because we weren’t going to have time to do 10 or 15 takes. The fact that he pulled the accent off in that short a time is pretty impressive.
MINER: Especially with the emotional stuff, because I’ve noticed a lot of times, as an actor and watching actors, that when you get into emotions and yelling and things like that, that’s when you hear the accent slip, and his didn’t.
How about Selma Blair?
LORD: She was very, very nice. I don’t know many other words to describe her. She was almost like an angel, for a mother.
MINER: She was such a nice human being, which was very convenient, because I had to be oddly obsessed with her as my character, which would’ve been harder to do had she been inaccessible. She was very nice, very open and very welcoming, and made that easy.
REGIMBAL: She’s in so much of the film, and again, with the tight shooting schedule, she brought a high level of professionalism that helped us keep moving at that pace. She was willing to do that from the start. Josh originally met with her and showed her the script, and she was really into it and was one of the first people to hop on board.
CLOSE: She started to contribute immediately, and the character began to come to life and come off the page. She was there for the week of rehearsal as well, just committing from the get-go. Her level of commitment was extraordinary.
How did you approach filming the violence? One scene that intrigued me is where the two men are in confrontation in the kitchen in the background, but the focus is on the two women in the foreground.
REGIMBAL: That for me was the scene when you realize just how serious Bobby is, because up until then, he could just be really weird. That’s the big shift, so we wanted to accentuate that. And one of the weirdest parts about that scene is that Jane is still mimicking and copying Mary, so we wanted to focus on that. It wasn’t necessarily the rage or what was going on. I love scenes like that, where the camera’s locked off and mayhem’s going on everywhere, and you see it, but you can’t really hear it all.
CLOSE: We shot some kitchen stuff, but we found that you and Selma in the foreground were good enough. Those performances were so compelling that we didn’t want to leave it.
MINER: I completely agree that it was a very cool cinematic choice, just locking it off.
REGIMBAL: Yeah, and I’m quite fond of the sound editing there.
LORD: And the music is excellent.
Is composer Keith Power any relation?
REGIMBAL: No, though Keith is from Canada as well. He had worked with our executive producers on another project, and we were lucky to have someone of his caliber on our film.
Where did you find your house location, and how much did it need to be altered for your needs?
REGIMBAL: It’s in Fort Langley, close to Vancouver, but about an hour into the middle of nowhere. That was one of our biggest challenges. We were talking about how the house is like a character of its own, and that was one of the hardest things to find in that area: a Russian 19th-century home. We had a really good production designer [Tink] who would swap out the odd table or something, but we were lucky in that a lot of the [decor] was already in there. That was an important thing, because this wasn’t a huge-budget movie, so to redress an entire mansion would’ve been pretty extreme.
MINER: It was an exquisite location. Set design did a great job, and I loved the pieces you tended to focus on. There’s one thing I love, the rabbit with the clock—very Alice in Wonderland, and I was thinking at that moment, “I’m through the looking glass.”
REGIMBAL: There were lots of little details we added to accentuate things. We brought in practical lamps, because we wanted to light it as much of it naturally and with those lamps as we could.
CLOSE: What about the pigeon…?
REGIMBAL: The pigeon was in the house.
CLOSE: And it kept making noises, so we were like, “Let’s just film it, so whenever we hear it, it’ll make sense.”
REGIMBAL: Every time there was an emotional or hard take, there was a [hoots, to laughter from the others]. It was the owner’s pigeon, so we couldn’t get rid of it!