The Horror Honeys: A Perfect Life, A Perfect Lie...

A Perfect Life, A Perfect Lie...

A Revenge Honey Review by Linnie

In Her Skin (a.k.a. I Am You) (2009)

There are no five words more disconcerting to a horror viewer than, "based on a true story." Usually, that means the film will either be frustratingly sensationalistic or more akin to a giant lie, taking a story you know by heart and destroying it in bits and pieces. This is why I am actually glad that prior to watching Simone North's In Her Skin, I had no idea it was based on a true case. Not only did it prevent me from researching the story before hand, but it also allowed me to experience the film without any preconceived notions of the rights and wrongs of the story. Because of this, Australian thriller In Her Skin wasn't just a beautifully made and acted film... it was an emotionally draining one.

And I mean that as a compliment.

(Just this once, I am giving you permission to stop reading. If you'd like to go into In Her Skin blind, as I did, know that I loved it. Nothing but *spoilers* ahead).

The True Story: 15-year-old Rachel Barber had everything going for her: she was beautiful, confident, popular, a dancing prodigy, and had a handsome boyfriend who adored her. Caroline Reed Robertson had none of those things. A one-time babysitter for Rachel and her younger sisters, Caroline was plagued by self-doubt over her weight and her looks, and infatuated with a withholding father who left their family when she was young. As an adult, Caroline struggled with a variety of mental illnesses, all of which told her the only answer to improving her own life was to take Rachel's. Through a series of elaborate lies, Caroline convinced the naïve Rachel to come to her house, where she brutally strangled the young girl to death.

The Film: In Her Skin tells Rachel's story from varying viewpoints: first, from Rachel's parents (played by Guy Pierce and Miranda Otto); then, from Caroline's (in an award-winning performance from Ruth Bradley); next, from Rachel's (Kate Bell); and then, back to Caroline's. The acting in this film is absolutely flawless. Otto and Pierce are exceptional as parents who know their daughter has come to harm but are forced to fight a disinterested police system every step of the way. Guy Pierce, in particular, was utterly heartbreaking as a father collapsing under the pressure of uncertainty. In Her Skin was based on Rachel's mother, Elizabeth Southall's, book chronicling the case and you can feel the touches of a mother's pain in every scene.

Ruth Bradley as Caroline is the true star of In Her Skin, however. She so deftly portrays first a teen, and then an adult, plagued with mental illness, that as a viewer you shift from sympathy to terror to absolute fear and back again in each scene. When Caroline breaks down in front of her father (played to cool perfection by the legendary Sam Neil), Bradley practically dares you to look away. Each moment she is on screen, you can feel the tension building to what is a frightening and inevitable conclusion, but not once can you take your eyes off this manic woman as she descends into pure madness.

Equally memorable is the direction of Simone North. In Her Skin is the kind of film that benefits greatly from a woman's touch, and it's visible in scenes both quiet and brutal. Emotional moments featuring Pierce, or flashbacks to Rachel gracefully dancing like a summer breeze are approached so delicately, you find yourself entranced. And that is exactly what makes the moments of sheer savagery that much more shocking. The scene of Rachel's death is extended, detailed, horrifying, and it will haunt you indefinitely. Everything that comes after that moment feels like a punch to the stomach, nausea-inducing and exhausting until finally, you go numb.

In Her Skin is the kind of true crime/revenge/thriller that I crave as the Revenge Honey, one that is beautiful, memorable, heart-wrenching, and totally frightening.

Revenge Honey Rating: 4 1/2 Ugly Cries out of 5

In Her Skin is available via Netflix Streaming and on DVD/blu-ray