Skinamarink is an abstract nightmare

Still from Skinamarink. Photo Credit: Shudder
Still from Skinamarink. Photo Credit: Shudder /

Many of the average movie goers and amateur’s film critics say “Hollywood is out of ideas”. This rhetoric is said more than any in regard to the horror genre where too many times it’s sequel after sequel, reboot after reboot. All of which usually contain a cast of unlikeable teenagers/young adults (usually played by people in their 30s) getting killed off through a plot with as much substance as cheap fake blood. Skinamarink is not one of those films.

While I don’t agree things aren’t as black and white as that, nonetheless that is the general public opinion. However with just a bit of searching one will find that there are horror films that wander outside the norm, and then there are horror films that fly off the rails in the most abstract and downright disturbing ways.

Skinamarink, the 2023 feature film debut by Kyle Edward Ball, crept into theaters earlier this year before making its way on to Shudder around a month later. The film follows a young brother and sister who wake up in the middle of the night to find that their father is missing. Not only that, but they appear to be trapped inside of their house as all the doors and windows have vanished.

Ball created an abstract masterpiece with Skinamarink. Throughout my first viewing of the film I found myself gripping the leather theaters seats as I watched in horror as the tension built across the hour and 40 minute runtime. The tensity in the air was so strong you could hear a pin drop.

The film makes good use of tension using various filmmaking techniques and flips them on their head to subvert audience expectations on the typical narrative horror film. One example being the use of the films cinematography. The film is shot in an unconventional way, with each frame being just out of focus or skewed of what an audience member would usually be comfortable looking at. This unconventional framework puts the audience in a perspective where they aren’t quite aware of everything going on in the scene, adding an edge of mystery and suspense.

Skinamarink still
Still from Skinamarink. Photo Credit: Shudder /

The other important aspect of filmmaking the director manipulates is sound. Many sounds throughout the film are muffled, and often the only thing that can be heard besides the soft and frightened voices of the children is the static filled hum of cartoons playing on an old television. Speaking of the television, many scenes in the living room of the house, a core set piece for the majority of this closed story, are lit purely by the glow of the television. The atmosphere this sets up put me in a great mood for the film, you truly feel like you’re in some sort of nightmare.

That nightmarish feeling is the atmosphere and tone the director set out to do. Kyle Edward Ball built up his filmography through various shorts films he wrote and directed using inspiration he gained from listening to peoples nightmares and even taking notes from his own. The film essentially strips the audience down to their most primitive way of feeling fear, with simple muffled noises and ungodly horrors just out of sight.

Easily one of the scariest things in the film is the “look under the bed scene” which builds tensity with nothing more than a few simple camera movements and good voice lines from the actors. Alongside that the ambiguity of the entity tormenting the two children holds a lot of the speculation people look at the film with. What does it want? Is it intentionally trying to hurt these children? Is it a demon or some other omniscient force? It is all up to interpretation, and I have seen so many great perspectives on this film that it compelled to me to write my own here.

Overall, Kyle Edward Balls Skinamarink is malevolent force of a film. It grips audiences in an abstract nightmare you can’t wake up from, and forces you to stare into the dark abyss and ponder on what evil forces are at play. While it may be abstract to many, and incomprehensible to many more, it is in no way like any horror film I’ve ever seen.

Thanks for reading, be sure to follow me on my Twitter @JacobAtTheMovie for more horror content and of course be sure to follow 1428 Elm to stay up to date on all things horror.

Skinamarink is currently streaming on Shudder.

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