Skinamarink – REVIEW

Did you ever have a moment as a child where something happened you couldn’t explain? Something that could only be brought about in a dark house, amplified by your lack of understanding and consciousness. For me, I have a distinct memory of leaving my crib in the middle of the night and trying to leave my bedroom when I was almost 2 years old. I couldn’t reach the doorknob, so I turned to go back to bed, only to see a group of shadowy figures towering over me, staring me down, their glowing white eyes piercing the darkness.

Now, did this really happen, or did my brain just convince me that it happened all those years ago? Well, I can have my theories, but that moment really got me thinking about how we perceive the world around us at a very young age. How our surroundings once familiar to us suddenly become distorted and warped once night falls. The unexplainable terrors we find in that darkness, void of reason and sense because we aren’t able to apply those tactics to understanding just yet. Skinamarink is a horror film that sets out to capture that same primal feeling we all experienced as children, but does it succeed in using this concept to craft a compelling narrative? Let’s talk about it.

Skinamarink is a pretty straightforward film from a narrative perspective. Two small children wake up in the middle of the night to find their dad is gone, all the doors and windows in the house have vanished, and something eerie is lingering in the dark rooms and hallways of their home. I was lucky enough to catch this film last year, and now it’s being brought to theaters this weekend,so I feel like this is as good of a time to talk about it. Shot in a simplistic, inexpensive kind of way, the cinematography has an incredible home-made feel that makes it seem as if we’ve stumbled across a distorted home video from our past. Scenes are often poorly lit aside from typical sources like nightlights and television screens. The atmosphere here is genuinely top notch, letting us experience the ominous, warped landscape the children are experiencing as well. There’s no real conventional narrative here beyond that experience. It’s meant to put you back in that mindset of ignorance you couldn’t help to have as a child, and how that lack of understanding scared you. There are some exceptionally tense moments where people and objects are hard to differentiate, where the characters are whispering so low you’re almost scared to lean in any closer lest something pop out at you from the darkness. These scenes are so well paced and spine tingling, so it pains me to say that I wish the rest of the movie was like this.

Like I said before, there’s hardly a narrative to follow, which may turn some people away as the film seems to aimlessly go about the night with repeating shots of hallways, rooms, and classic cartoons playing on a television. This repetition does get a little too drawn out as the film goes on, hanging on and returning to these shots a bit too much to the point I was really fighting to maintain interest. At times, it all feels too ambiguous and too disjointed, like this was meant to be more of an exercise on unsettling imagery rather than a complete film. Which kind of makes sense when you take a look at director Kyle Edward Ball’s YouTube channel, Bitesized Nightmares. A collection of ethereal nightmare ambiance in the form of soundtracks and short videos meant to tap into the more niche, simplistic occurrences that reminded me of being young and reading creepypasta’s again. In short doses this kind of format works, but for a 100 minute film, it’s just not enough to remain engaging throughout. While the amateurish style of shooting certainly helps to set the mood, it does make it confusing when you’re trying to decipher who is saying what and what exactly they’re saying. It makes the film more mysterious, but not in a way that I think supports the final product in a significant way. The pacing is incredibly slow while giving little to ultimately expect or look forward to, despite a few great scenes like I mentioned earlier. Those little “bitesized nightmares” that we get are truly unsettling and will most likely strike a chord with a lot of people, but sometimes getting to those scenes are too much of a trek to deal with.

I really wanted to love something like this considering I was high on another experimental horror film from last year called We’re All Going to the World’s Fair, but that film had a lot more structure and more to say than this one. I do want to give credit to the film’s director, who took it upon himself to make a movie unlike anything I’ve seen all year. With a very tiny budget and the power of word of mouth, somehow a YouTuber with a little under 10 thousand subscribers may have a win on his hands in the same vein as Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity. This is a very experimental film so I can’t say the average movie goer is going to like it, but if you’re looking for something different, something that can tap into a long forgotten horror you may have forgotten, I certainly recommend you give this a try. It’s not perfect and absolutely has its faults, but we need to support the little guys trying to get their art out in the world. 

Rating

(out of a possible 5 toy phones)

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