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.
Cast: Lucas Paul, Dali Rose Tetreult, Ross Paul, Jaime Hill
Directors: Kyle Edward Ball
Writers: Kyle Edward Ball
Cinematography: Jamie McRae
What’s bound to be one of the year’s most interesting and talked about horror films is Skinamarink. It’s less a film and more of an audio/visual experimentation, and it’s bound to drive some to call it the worst movie in years and others to praise its unique aspects. Both will be correct statements; of course, art is subjective. Yet it’s been a while since I’ve seen a horror film that will rub some the wrong way as much as Skinamarink. Especially one such as this where the narrative could fit into a run-of-the-mill horror movie. It’s focused on two kids waking up in the middle of the night to find they’re home alone and creepy things are happening. Of course, there’s something strange going on, and of course, there’s someone else or something else is in the house, but how the film is presented makes this into something else entirely.
Director/writer Kyle Edward Ball throws narrative basics and framing out the window. Film class 101’s are left at the curb and in their place, a focus on intriguing yet purposely dark and blurry images, a distinct void of the soundtrack, and a soundscape that hides some of the film’s minimal dialogue. The camera hangs in the corner of rooms, and for most of the shots, you’ll be staring at a view similar to the same one you have laying in a bed at night and looking at your roof.
As the two kids watch cartoons in the living room, waiting patiently for the night to be over and their parents to come home, we, as the viewer, can see the disappearance of the front door, windows and even the toilet as they blink into the air never to be seen before. Exploring the house, they look for answers, and you’ll be left with the repeating sounds of the cartoons on the TV in the background. At times, Ball displays subtitles so you can hear what’s being said between the handful of characters in the film, but they’ve all been handpicked. When someone in the darkness says, “check under the bed,” the text on the screen is enough to send a shiver down your spine, while other times, the almost mumbles of the children not getting subtitles adds to the tension.
Where Skinamarink falls apart for me is the runtime. At 100 minutes, the film feels ridiculously long and drawn out for a movie of this type. Even at 90 minutes, it may have felt long, but 110 minutes feels wildly unnecessary. A solid 80 minutes would have done wonders for the film.
Although social media has Skinamarink reaching for mainstream success and done well at cinemas, this isn’t a film for most people. It’s experimental to the bone and requires a specific wavelength to hit the exact horror vibe that Ball is transmitting on. I could appreciate the experience and love the commitment to the direction, but the runtime is ridiculous for the film, and by the time it’s all over, my brain had well-click-over into not caring enough.