Film Review: Skinamarink

Image by Kyle Edward Ball

Image by Kyle Edward Ball

Emily Palmer, Writer

Have you ever felt “paralyzed in fear”? Stuck staring at the nightmarish abyss of an open door leading to a pitch-black room, terrified of something lunging out at you. But you just can’t look away or run? 

 Skinamarink, a horror film shown at Fantasia Festival 2022, that ran from July 14th to August 3rd captures this feeling wonderfully. Directed by Kyle Edward Ball, this film was meant to ignite a nostalgic sensation reminding older audiences of what it’s like to be afraid of the dark. Skinamarink follows two young children who had waken up in the middle of the night to discover all the doors and windows of the house have vanished, and their father is missing. The children have no sense of time, and as the lights of the house begin to fail, they turn to their tv as their only source of light and comfort. As the movie goes on, the creature hunting them takes full advantage of the kids’ fear and isolation in the home. Ultimately, the kids are killed in rather vague, yet gruesome ways. 

Skinamarink does not have a particularly unique plot or lack thereof. The film’s most defining characteristic is its bizarre cinematography and directing choices. 

Many online have compared Skinamarink to found footage horror productions like The Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity. This film is extremely experimental, ignoring many traditional approaches to cinema, and forcing its audience to put lots of work into merely watching the film.  

Throughout the film, the audience never directly can see the monster haunting the main characters or see the two children themselves. The movie had only a 15,000-dollar budget meaning most of the horror scenes in the film rely not on high budget VFX or CGI, but on suspense and fear incited by the film’s incredibly gritty atmosphere. Speaking of the film’s atmosphere. The movie exclusively uses set perspectives of the camera that never seem to catch what is happening on screen. The movie is extremely dark and grainy, mimicking the look of an older lens. This is accompanied by whirring noises heard throughout the movie and the sound of a VHS tape clicking into place in the opening credits. Occasionally, the movie’s dialogue is too quiet to be heard so harsh captions repeat off-hand phrases to emphasize their oddity. Terry Mesnard brings up this interesting component in his own review of the film, “Skinamarink refuses to meet the audience halfway. It wants the viewer to meet it on its terms. And that will be frustrating for a lot of people” (Gaylydeadful). The director himself has a YouTube channel called Bitesized Nightmares where he has uploaded other short films of similar appearance. Most of Skinamarink’s power over the viewer comes from its unique audio and appearances. 

However, some people do not appreciate the slow pacing and disorientating cinematography. This film has been referred to as “one of the most polarizing movies of 2022,” due to its incredibly stylistic nature. The pacing of the movie is deliberate but painstakingly slow. The beginning of the film seems to drag on endlessly, which can quickly cause viewers to lose interest in the movie. Skinamarink is not nearly as easy to casually enjoy or appreciate as just a quick watch. Skinamarink can have very intense effects on its viewer but only if they’re willing to put in the extra effort of indulging its loose narrative, “Filmmaker Kyle Edward Ball demands the audience pick up the shovel and do the digging on their own. It’s not fair, but it is an exciting and original vision of what horror can look like” (Josh Korngut Deadcentral). The film has a way of forcing audiences back into a state of vulnerability, reigniting very child-like fears of the dark and isolation.  

If someone wants to truly get the most out of Skinamarink;  the loneliness and anxiety that comes with every second after the first real jump scare of the movie. It’s best watched alone in a dark room, absorbing every second of the fuzzy static sounds, clouded audio, and inky black footage. Allowing yourself to be immersed in a skin-prickling tension that will keep you still in your seat for the rest of the movie. Give the movie your interest and the suffocating tension will leave you almost wanting a jump scare to come up on screen. 

Honestly, after watching the movie myself I was quietly planning my next movements. My mind was racing, eyes darting around my room in search of the reminder that my windows were still there, and no malevolent monsters had come for my mouth. If and before you do give Skinamarink a try I would like to ask one simple question after viewing, are you afraid of the dark?