Making the rounds in underground horror circles, “Skinamarink” has some saying it’s a total borefest and others proclaiming this to be one of the scariest movie experiences they’ve ever had.
Written and directed by Kyle Edward Ball, set in 1995 and shot in a way that feels as though you are watching a low-fi home movie, “Skinamarink” follows two small children who wake up in the middle of the night to find their father is missing and all the doors and windows of their house are gone. Not shot in real time but unfortunately feeling like it is, what we get is a movie where we never see the children’s faces and are left to watch this story play out through a series of blurry shots of the ceiling, corners of the living room, dark hallways and a television set playing old cartoons, as the kids speak off-screen attempting to piece together what is going on. Their voices are also accompanied by ambient “house noises” and overmodulated and warbled sounds that mimic the playback of an old VHS cassette tape recording.
I get it. That all sounds wildly unwatchable. But shockingly it’s not, as Ball constructs these visuals in a way that delivers on that creepy feeling of watching something we shouldn’t be watching.
Slow to start, Ball does establish a clear story which captured my curiosity early on. And while I didn’t care for the final twenty minutes of “Skinamarink”, which ditches the plot entirely and ventures off into this purely experimental realm of confusing sights and sounds and “cool camera tricks” (and there is nothing in this that could justify the hour and forty-minute runtime), there was definitely a few segments where I could clearly see the film’s full potential as a horror that would make you think twice about checking for monsters under your bed.
When replaying this movie over in my head, I’m acutely aware that not much happens after a certain point. I am also aware that for much of this movie I watched it with my stomach clenched and at times through my fingers. And for me, this is a huge part of what makes a scary movie work.
I’ve seen some reviews label “Skinamarink” as art, as in it’s more of an “art piece” than a movie made for entertainment purposes. But I truly believe the filmmaker’s intent was to create a disturbing horror on par with something like “Paranormal Activity”, while also attempting to hold true to his low-budget, “what if David Lynch directed “Poltergeist”” vision. While I don’t believe this experiment will be as much of a mainstream success story as “Paranormal Activity”, “Skinamarink” does achieve the disorienting visuals mixed with unnerving atmosphere, which makes this experimental film an effective horror watch in the right setting; alone at home in the dark.
Final Thought: The theories behind what is actually going on in this movie will definitely be fun to talk about for those who can make it through. Is this a fever dream? Is this real life? Is this some sort of purgatory? Is there someone or something in this house that is making all of this happen? Is this movie even good? That said, I understand why people dislike this film, as it is an endurance test. On top of that, I understand that “Skinamarink” may be a movie that is more interesting to talk about than it is to actually watch. And so, I cannot fully recommend it to everyone. But I am glad it exists.
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