Sundance 2023: The Creepy Crawly Nightmare of ‘In My Mother’s Skin’

Felicity Kyle Napuli and Jasmine Curtis-Smith in “In My Mother’s Skin” (Courtesy of

By Luke Jackson, Assistant Arts Editor


Using the end of World War II as a backdrop, “In My Mother’s Skin” finds a young family struggling against the military powers of the Japanese occupation to stay alive. For the most part, these powers are completely unseen, but their effects are ever present. Illness, famine and a dangerous rumor haunt father Aldo, his wife Ligaya (Beauty Gonzalez) and his two children Tala (Felicity Kyle Napuli) and Bayani (James Mavie Estrella).

The haunting of these factors is exacerbated when Aldo leaves his family in an effort to find help from American forces. When he doesn’t return, Tala, Aldo’s eldest daughter, with the help of her brother Bayani, takes it upon herself to seek aid. In the forest near their home, Tala finds a fairy (Jasmine Curtis-Smith) who offers her supernatural assistance. Soon, Tala learns that the fairy has dark ulterior motives.

A Descent Into Wonderful Madness

“In My Mother’s Skin” is a healthy mix of themes from folklore and Catholicism. It’s a creepy, crawly and dark horror flick that starts slow, but descends into wonderful madness. While the entire cast comes to play, the two children give absolute powerhouse performances that keep the audience immersed and the film grounded.

The film is at its weakest when it relies on its historical backdrop. The threat and horrors of war seem far away from Aldo’s family’s country manor. Outside of bookending the film’s action, the war doesn’t serve much purpose in the story. The brief moments of focus on World War II remove tension and take away from the overall mystery. While the run time is short at only 97 minutes, these brief moments drag on.

That being said, it was rare for me to not feel completely engaged. The film is beautifully shot by Russell Morton and wonderfully directed by Kenneth Dagatan. Long, slow, sweeping shots pair beautifully with immersive and eerie sound design. I was constantly covering each inch of the screen with my eyes trying to spot any hidden danger.

Grounded by Location and Writing

What impressed me most about the film was its ability to create immersive narrative with minimal locations. Almost the entire movie takes place within the walls of Aldo’s country manor. The rare shots outside of the house take place in the surrounding forest. We never travel far, yet the world feels expansive and deep.

“In My Mother’s Skin” performs the difficult feat of allowing us to enter the mind of Tala and Bayani. To see the horrors of their world through the eyes of a child. We see how adolescent naivety leads to unspeakable consequence. We experience the deepest nightmares of a child come to full fruition. The children are brilliantly written to feel like children. Their motives, while at times questionable, are the expected motives of a child.

Creepy and Visceral

While there are some pacing issues, the overall experience of “In My Mother’s Skin” was incredibly enjoyable. It’s a slow burn that culminates in a twisty and freaky third act. It has the perfect amount of creepy moments and visceral images to make you uneasy without making you feel sick.

Acquired by Amazon Prime Video, the world will be able to view “In My Mother’s Skin” at home very soon. However, if you have the chance to catch a viewing with a collective at the cinema, I encourage you to pursue that option. The mass experience of gasps and skin-crawling was a big part of the enjoyment of the film.


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