It’s always interesting to see a new vision in the horror genre emerge and the feature directorial debut of Kyle Edward Ball, Skinamarink, certainly fits that bill even though it won’t be for everyone.
The film takes viewers into an incredibly surreal experience that sees young siblings Kaylee (Dali Rose Tetreault) and Kevin (Lucas Paul) deal with a mysterious entity that’s distorting their reality and causes their father (Ross Paul) to disappear—along with all the doors and windows. Ball showcases an experimental style that feels reminiscent of found-footage films. Often, it feels like you’re a fly on the wall in this house and the bizarre angles Ball captures instantly make you feel uneasy. Odd angles aren’t the only thing that Ball implements to make Skinamarink a haunting viewing experience, though.
Jamie McRae’s cinematography adds a good graininess to the film that makes you feel like you’re watching a cursed VHS tape. Some of the imagery that Ball constructs, including some creepy cartoons and an eerie collection of toys, elevate the film’s strangeness and even play unique roles in the storytelling. Even just the way that Ball traverses the house’s dark and haunting atmosphere constantly leaves you on edge and instills chills with every peek around the corner. When it comes to atmosphere, sound design, and most other technical aspects of horror, Skinamarink is top-notch. The atmosphere is honestly so tense and rich with palpable shivers that it’s honestly worth seeing in theaters just to immerse yourself deeper into Skinamarink’s visual experience.
Unfortunately, Skinamarink is definitely an extreme case of style over substance, since it features an abstract story that’ll either entice or drive away audiences. For those who love a slow-burning horror story, there are some good beats to Skinamarink that’ll keep you hooked. The central mystery surrounding this supernatural entity are definitely intriguing and there are some standout scenes that are legitimately terrifying. As the film goes deeper down its own rabbit hole, it’s hard not to feel hypnotized by some of its imagery and mind-melting sequences that leave you stunned. Given Ball’s experience bringing viewers’ nightmares to life on his YouTube channel Bitsized Nightmares, Skinamarink definitely has some horror nostalgia to it. Even the inspiration he gained from making recreations of his subscribers’ nightmares feels present and it makes for some relatability to what you’re seeing.
For most though, Skinamarink will simply come off as boring because not much happens. Most of the time, you are simply looking at static shots of rooms and are barely able to hear any of the dialogue. So, you’re constantly in a struggle to stay connected with the film and with the slow pacing, it can feel like an eternity. The abstract nature of the story doesn’t help either, since you barely feel like you have even a faint grip on what’s happening. The film also rarely provides fulfilling answers, so even if you’re able to push through the film to the very end, there isn’t much satisfaction to be had in doing so. Unlike how M3GAN recently won people over by being an entertaining horror ride, Skinamarink will likely bore wider audiences looking for anything, I mean anything, to happen in it.
Skinamarink is certainly a strong showing for Ball’s vision and it’s tough not to be impressed by the atmosphere he’s built, but its abstract story severely limits the film’s potential to really connect with most viewers, making it a risky watch that won’t feature much payoff for most.