Skinamarink is an experimental horror film written and directed by Kyle Edward Ball, serving as his feature directorial debut. Ball operated a YouTube channel prior to the film specifically targeting nightmare-based horror, in 2020 releasing a short film titled Heck as a proof-of-concept for what would go on to be his first product in cinema.
Having crowdfunded the film for $15,000, Skinamarink premiered at the 26th Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal on July 25th of 2022, where due to a technical issue, that draft of the film was leaked and pirated virally.
The premise of Skinamarink is that a four-year-old boy and his six-year-old sister wake in their home to find that their father has disappeared, and several objects in the house including doors and windows are following suit.
Now, I’ll concede, despite having a decent interest in Skinamarink prior to watching, I was pretty apprehensive within the first ten minutes or so. It’s very experimental in its execution, offering a very jarring experience from a cinematography standpoint as well as aurally. Shots are often focused on the walls, ceilings and floors of the home for half the film or more, while the remaining half are seemingly from the perspective of the children. There are titles and subtitles included as a part of the film itself, further enhancing the unconventional approach it takes while otherwise having the potential to be found-footage.
My point being, I’ve always had a preference for coherent, comprehensive stories and characters that I can follow in the films I watch. I’m not much a fan of artistic and/or experimental works by default, which isn’t to say they’re poor products or I hate them or anything. It just remains my preference. So I had a somewhat abrasive reaction at first, but I was intrigued enough to persevere. And I have to say, it was truly worth it.
Skinamarink is honestly horrifying. That is, if you can get into what the film is offering. I’ve seen an exceptionally mixed reception toward the film, with many echoing my sentiments of aversion to experimental cinema while others praise the film’s atmosphere and execution all around.
I honestly appreciate that the film stems from what stands as modern internet horror, rather than “conventional” Hollywood horror stories that haven’t quite tapped into that market as of yet. Esoteric and cosmic, independent and analog, and ultimately experimental in their own right, viral videos like Kane Pixels’ Backrooms series, or My house walk-through, No Through Road, etc. Skinamarink plays with a tremendous deal of current horror intrigues, analog aesthetics and cerebral voids and loops.
It also very powerfully evokes childhood fears, stoking the inherent Nyctophobia we’ve all experienced at one developmental point or another, as well as offering what I feel to be honest adolescent dialogue to the point of being gut-wrenching, though the script has led to much debate in that regard. Some complain that the behavior of the protagonists comes across as unrealistic, which I personally feel mixed on, but ultimately I wasn’t distracted or bothered by their characteristics.
The story is not a step-by-step open book, which can be a considerable turn-off to potential viewers, and I completely understand and relate with that. Stories are what I want out of cinema, when you boil everything down, and generally if I have to look up the film’s synopsis on Wikipedia after the credits, I tap out. But the sequence of events in Skinamarink can be followed enough through being invested in the imagery and the characters themselves. The imagery and sound design can be pretty offputting and intense, however, screaming unconventionality while being completely fucking unnerving.
The film does have its share of jump-scares, though there are plenty of other tools at play to invoke fear and anxiety in the viewer. I will say though, I’ve always struggled to think of examples of jump-scares being done well, and I think Skinamarink might be the first one to come to mind on that front going forward. But make of that what you will.
In closing, Skinamarink is a tough sell for the common movie fan, and may even be a tough one for horror fanatics like myself. But I think it really just boils down to compatibility; you might like and appreciate what it’s doing, or it’s just not your thing. And either side is completely fine.
It’s not one I’ll need to rewatch any time soon, but I’m definitely glad to have seen it at all, and the film will be remaining in my library.
That’s my piece.