Kenneth Dagatan’s “In My Mother’s Skin” is a cursed fairy tale in the same vein as Guillermo del Toro’s 2006 masterpiece, “Pan’s Labyrinth.” Set in the Philippines during World War II, Dagatan’s film follows Tala (Felicity Kyle Napuli), the young daughter of a wealthy Filipino family who is stranded in a mansion with her mother, brother and housekeeper (Angeli Bayani) while her father goes off to fight in the conflict. When her mother (Beauty Gonzalez) comes down with a mysterious ailment, Tala puts blind trust in a captivating forest fairy (Jasmine Curtis-Smith) who promises to cure her. What could possibly go wrong?
Dagatan weaves impressive, bloodcurdling set pieces from a modest budget. Besides the fairy herself, decked out in a gilded costume that Björk might wear onstage, there’s a visual feast of banquets, jungle ruins and hidden treasures that Tala discovers in her explorations. All of this lies in stark contrast to the gory violence that ensues as the fairies gradually lay waste to the family, using Tala’s mother as a host for their flesh-eating tendencies. It’s refreshing to see a horror movie this artful that doesn’t shy away from B-movie spectacle.
In keeping with its historical themes, “In My Mother’s Skin” acts as a cautionary tale about putting one’s fate into the hands of the enemy, and the results are predictably grim. Like this year’s sleeper horror hit “Skinamarink,” this film’s unwavering depiction of children suffering will no doubt come across as excessive to some, but it’s what makes “In My Mother’s Skin” so beguiling and terrifying. True to classic folklore, this is a story that delivers fantasy and queasiness in equal measure.
In My Mother’s Skin
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 37 minutes. Watch on Amazon Prime Video.