Warning: Spoilers Ahead!
If you can remember what a nightmare from your childhood looked and felt like, it has to be something similar to the off-putting tone and visuals of the new indie horror film, Skinamarink. Last week, the film kicked off its limited run in theaters before eventually landing over on Shudder to stream.
However, for weeks and months prior to its release, TikTok users and YouTubers have been buzzing over Kyle Edward Ball‘s debut feature and proposing the question, is this dark, unsettling art-house horror film the scariest movie of all time? Or just another attempt at low-budget filmmaking that will be forgotten about in the weeks to come.
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What Is Skinamarink About?
What is Skinamarink about? The indie-horror film tells the story of two young siblings, Kevin (Lucas Paul), and his older sister Kaylee (Dali RoseTetreault), who wake up in the middle of the night and notice that their dad is missing. The two take refuge in front of the television to watch some late-night reruns of classic cartoons. As the night progresses, an unseen presence begins to creep up on them from the dark and whisper to them. Once these moments in the film begin to take shape, suspend yourself from whatever you assume to be a filmmaking formula and let it take you for a ride.
It’s very easy to get up and leave the theater twenty minutes in and think that this film isn’t worth the price of admission. The first act of the movie consists of shots of the house in which the film takes place. Lights turn on and off. All the camera angles are at the height of a child’s point of view. This is being used to make the house feel bigger and more menacing.
You also never see the children completely; there are shots of Kevin sitting down on the carpet but his face is never shown. You see their feet as they whisper to one another. The atmosphere is created in the early moments of the film, yet as an audience member, it’s easy to start to question where this film is this even going.
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The film is slow-burn cinema at its finest. Dark grainy visuals pull us in with whispers and quiet noises that get turned up all the way to give the film its jump-scare moments. Huge credit to the sound design team on this. Skinamarink wants to scare the hell out of you, but not as your average horror film does. The house it takes place in gets darker and darker. The camera sits on shots of darkness throughout the house for moments that last longer than expected. You wait, thinking whatever is after these children are going to jump out and do whatever it sets out to do, but nothing happens.
And it’s in these moments that, oddly, are what carry the horror of the film more than any of the three or four jump scares that we get. It’s in these moments of staring at a shadow in the kitchen, a dark hallway, or a stairwell that the idea of a childhood nightmare becomes more prominent.
Think back to waking up in the middle of the night when you were little and the jarring sense of being unsure if everything was okay. The house you lived in was your place of safety. During the day it’s full of life, with people you love coming and going. At night when everyone has gone to bed, it’s quiet and maybe has a few drafts inside the walls.
Yet you’re unsure if there is something lurking around the corner to harm you and take you away to a dark place. As we progress through the third act, Skinamarink has the ability to tie its audience members to their chairs like sleep paralysis. You know something is coming and it isn’t good, and you are stuck having to witness it. However, you don’t know when this awful thing is coming, and in what shape or form it is going to appear. It’s going to strip you of all that keeps you safe. For example, the cartoons that the children flock to begin to be taken over by this ominous unseen force.
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There is a scene towards the end of the film where the cartoons begin to stop on the screen on their own and then play again on the television. It is here that you know that the last thing that the children could find comfort in is now gone. All bets are now off. One of the great but challenging things about avant-garde films is that if you can pay close attention early on, there are always a few quick moments early that can give some clarity to the narrative moving forward. We do get that in Skinamarink.
Early on in the film you hear a few thuds and a child crying then the father (Ross Paul) on the telephone saying something about Kevin hitting his head but doesn’t need stitches. You can’t help but wonder, is Kevin okay? Is he in a coma? Was Kevin pushed by his father? Is Kevin dreaming? Is Kevin dying? Connecting those dots is hard to do, and by the time you reach the films chilling final moments, you’re not given any answers.
In the end, Skinamarink is an experimental film that takes you on a slow ride. Slow enough that all the fears and anxieties that you may or may not have carried with you from childhood come out of the darkness and you’re forced to face them in a movie theater. If you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also at you, which is a saying that you can’t help but ponder as you look at these shots of darkened hallways. It’s always the quiet predators of the night that do more harm than the loud monstrous ones…
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Is Skinamarink Worth Watching?
All scary things aside, it is worth noting the accomplishment this film has pulled off. A low-budget indie horror film that gets backed by companies like IFC Midnight and Shudder, then gets a theatrical run is great to see in this day and age. Kyle Edward Ball is well aware of the split decision on his film from critics and horror fans. He explains that here. But if anything, let Skinamarink be an example to all indie filmmakers, you have no excuse, go make your movie. Because you just never know what could happen.
Are You A Fan Of Skinamarink?
We hope you enjoyed our piece on Skinamarink explained. Have you seen this horror film? Let us know your thoughts on social media!