This is a complicated review to formulate, I’ll freely admit it. On the one hand, Skinamarink is a bold and uncompromising vision for horror. On the other hand, it’s so slow, and asks so much of its audience, that I was never able to come close to getting into it. The viewer doesn’t have to just do work, they have to do nearly all of the work. Early on, there’s a curiosity factor and even fascination with how things are being presented. Quickly though, it becomes a case of diminishing returns, leading to disappointment for yours truly.
Skinamarink certainly is not like anything out there. Arguably, it’s not like anything else that’s ever been made. At the same time, while it’s almost the inverse of elevated horror (while still being a version of that), the flick is also an example of slow cinema. More often than not, that type of picture bounces off me, even though I appreciate its effort and existence. This is very much that sort of a situation. The movie is attempting to depict childhood trauma, and in doing so, eschew almost all sense of character and plot. It’s lo-fi ambitious, but falls short of the mark.
Taking place entirely within a home, two young siblings, Kevin (Lucas Paul) and Kaylee (Dali Rose Tetreault), awake one night with the sense that something is off. They realize that their father (Ross Paul) is missing, as well as all of the windows and doors in their home, since they seem to have vanished. Wandering the home, there’s clearly something wrong, but what is it?
Navigating the ominous environment, the encounter the situation as children would. However, is it something supernatural? A bad dream? Some kind of processing of potential divorce? The film won’t say, leaving it almost entirely up to you. Certain viewers may unravel watching it go down, while others will just want to look at their watch.
The small cast aren’t really given a chance to shine, as it’s all about the format and filmmaking here. In that way, Skinamarink is the opposite of elevated horror, all but ignoring the actors (literally, even, as you never get a clear look at anyone’s faces, alongside much of the dialogue being distorted). So, we’re only sort of observing the kids, leaving Lucas Paul and Dali Rose Tetreault without a ton to do but wander. And wander they do. It’s trying to be at a distance yet also intimate, and that’s a big ask, especially without the cast to support it. In addition to the aforementioned Ross Paul, Jaime Hill rounds out the players.
Filmmaker Kyle Edward Ball is the star here. He clearly is making a passion project and singular vision with Skinamarink, without question. Ball is engaging in sensory horror and asking you to figure out what you’re potentially terrified of. For some, it’s going to be an almost unbearably scary experience. For others, it’s going to be almost impossible to get into. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of middle ground, which speaks to the specificity of Ball’s vision. I’m definitely keen to see what he does next. Here? It just did not work for me, falling into banality and repetition instead of terror.
I respect the hell out of Skinamarink. It’s wild that this movie actually exists. At the same time, while it’s fairly unsettling, it’s so obtuse, it asks you to do all of the work, giving too little in return to warrant a recommendation. That’s my take, though, and I’m sure many of you will love it. That’s just the nature of the indie horror beast.