Two children wake up in the middle of the night to find their father is missing, and all the windows and doors in their home have vanished. To cope with the strange situation, the two bring pillows and blankets to the living room and settle into a quiet slumber party situation. They play well-worn videotapes of cartoons to fill the silence of the house and distract from the frightening and inexplicable situation. All the while in the hopes that eventually some grown-ups will come to rescue them. However, after a while it becomes clear that something is watching over them.
Skinamarink stars Lucas Paul, Dali Rose Tetreault, Ross Paul, and Jaime Hill and was written, directed, and produced by Kyle Edward Ball in his directorial debut. The film is something of an experimental, controversial product that has deeply divided critics and viewers alike.
I was incredibly excited about this film as I really like horrors that break the norm and push that proverbial envelope. Skinamarink definitely does that, but not in ways that I personally enjoyed. I was more confused than I was intrigued. Is it brilliant? Yes. Is it an enjoyable watch? No. Skinamarink is a film that sits on the perpetual edge of a jump scare; it forces you to inertly stare into the abyss, waiting for that inevitable jolt of fear that is lurking in the SD darkness within your screen.
Aesthetically, Skinamarink brought me back to the late 80s and early 90s and was eerily reminiscent of my childhood bedroom, with the old TV playing those Looney Toons cartoons and the Lego scattered all over the floor. I’m sure that this was done intentionally for the large demographic of Millennials or Gen X viewers out there.
But why? What does this help to invoke? It is that childhood sense of dread that we all remember; that fear of having to run down the passage in the middle of the night to get to the bathroom while our minds filled the darkness with life, forming terrifying shapes and silhouettes from the shadows that only the deepest part of our fear-centres could conjure.
Skinamarink forces you to relive that over and over again for an hour and a half. It is the same reason why the shots never really show the correct angles and why we barely get to focus on the characters in the film—Ball wants you to feel like you are the children within this film, experiencing these terrors from these obscure perspectives as if you were in your childhood home. It’s quite brilliant, really.
And it is truly scary at points. I found myself more than once with my hand in front of my face; not because I was scared of what was on the screen, but because I was afraid of what wasn’t. I was preparing myself for what might appear on the screen next. It’s a form of perpetual anxiety for what may or may not be there.
Sadly though, the film frustrated me for most of its runtime. My initial reaction of awe and wonder at the terrifyingly haunting atmosphere and creepy energy of the film quickly subsided. After the first 20 minutes of the same long shots staring into a dark passageway or bed or ceiling or closet, the film quickly lost momentum. Also, the deliberately limited dialogue and absence of a relatable protagonist make Skinamarink a long, chilling glare at some very grainy video. It isn’t fun. It felt very monotonous and deliberately dreamy, like viewing a nightmare rather than a film.
Now, some of you may be reading this and thinking, “But that’s the whole point!” and I hear you. I really do. It just wasn’t for me. Skinamarink is a hauntingly surreal horror film that makes a lot of bold choices and takes a lot of risks. To some, it seems to be horror in its purest form and to others, a contrived snoozefest. I suggest you give it a watch yourself and make up your own mind on this one.
Thanks for reading and as always, stay sordid. Skinamarink will be streaming on Shudder from Thursday, February 2nd. Catch the artwork and official trailer below.
Site founder. Horror enthusiast. Metalhead.