Movie Review: ‘Skinamarink’

There is a primal fear we all had as children of being abandoned by our parental figures. While their may be the fantasies of initially living it up, the absence of loving caretakers would inevitably take its toll. As adults we may have outgrown this dread, but in his feature debut, Kyle Edward Ball’s experimental horror film Skinamarink takes us right back to our youths and forces us to live this traumatic potential. At a number of film festivals last year, this movie elicited strong reactions both positive and negative from audiences. No matter which side of the fence you fell on, this movie still hit hard. Over the weekend horror streaming giant Shudder, picked Skinamarink up and released it to the masses.

The premise of this film is simple, two children wake up in the middle of the night to find their parents missing. They think they are alone, but there is a supernatural entity in the house with them that insures that they are not. It is simple in theory, but in execution Ball crafts a film that messes with your mind ands seeps into your souls. Shot on a grainy camcorder and ignoring any rule about framing or blocking, the director creates an atmosphere that has you on the edge your seat. The cinematography puts us as the audience in the same position as the young children of the film Kevin and Kaylee. We are confused and disoriented in a dark house, while toys and Fleisher brothers cartoons initially provide some comfort inevitably they become part of the overall oppression of the house.

The story unfolds with strange and unsettling shots of around the house, of doors, lighting fixtures, the TV, and occasionally glimpses of our young protagonists making them just as unfamiliar to us as everything else in this setting. Kyle Edward Ball drags things out slowly keeping you waiting with bated breath for the inevitable. The focus is clearly on creating a tone and atmosphere for the movie with big scares used sparingly, but when the scares do hit they hit hard. In one scene in particular Kaylee is summoned to her parents bedroom upstairs and what follows is the stuff of nightmares. The intentionally poor quality of the footage pays off especially here as your eyes take time to adjust to their surroundings and once you see what is happening it gives you a jolt.

You may love Skinamarink or you may hate it, the nature of its production insures this. However, you will not forget this movie. If you have the patients and the state of mind for it, this movie will reward you for it. Skinamarink taps into a youthful nostalgia but not in a way to give you a warm and fuzzy feeling, but rather to leave you chilled to the core.