“Skinamarink” review: A refreshingly original and nightmarish experiment in horror filmmaking


Courtesy of IMDb

Adam Seal, Contributing Writer

The newly released horror film, “Skinamarink”, at its very core, is all about creating an unsettling atmosphere. The film takes place in 1995 and follows two children, Kevin and Kaylee, who wake up in the middle of the night to find that their parents are missing and that all the windows and doors leading outside have also vanished. Using a CRT TV as their only available light source, both children have no choice but to fend for themselves against a malicious entity in the house.

The story, or lack thereof, prioritizes ambiguity by keeping structure, dialogue, or any concrete explanation to a minimum. What makes this even more chilling is how everything feels seen through the eyes of a vulnerable, hopeless child.

What I saw and felt from the film resonated with many of my own childhood fears. There’s a pervasive nightmarish quality every step of the way. Many shots are framed low to the ground depicting dark corners of the house where the mysterious entity could pop out at any moment. The bright TV playing cartoons goes from being a source of comfort to repetitive nightmarish dread.There are a few jump scares scattered throughout the film, and while I generally think they’re getting old and cliche at this point, none of them felt cheap or overused and, quite frankly, felt justified.

It’s no secret that “Skinamarink” is a mundane, slow-boiled film. However, I thought the jumpscares were an excellent device for keeping me on my toes, despite the film needing my undivided attention and patience to succeed.

If there’s one aspect of the film that I believe excels perhaps the most, it’s the sound design. There is a loop of fuzzy crackling noises playing from beginning to end that goes along nicely with the film’s grainy visuals and, in addition, muffles out the children calling for help astheir screams and the entity’s haunting voice resonate through the house. The old music from the cartoons repeats itself to obnoxious proportions, and while it’s an easy turn-off for plenty of audience members, it just adds to the insane spiral I feel like I’m falling down. After a certain point, I was ready for it to be over. Not because I was bored, but because the fear, madness, and anticipation of what was out there became overwhelming and torturous for me. Even after conquering it, “Skinamarink” left a mark on me. Sometimes, I can’t go to the bathroom or the kitchen in the middle of the night without hearing the voices of the entity, the children crying, and even the sound of my own panicked childhood voice playing in the back of my head. This is a rare yet high mark of any horror film, in my opinion.

The cast, consisting of four no-faced actors playing the family, did an excellent job contributing to the ambiguous atmosphere, but not much else. When we see the parents, they are kept at a distance facing away from us, perhaps symbolizing how their help and love are out of reach of the children. Likewise, we never really see the children except their feet scuttling around the house, and while this might sound like a questionable composition choice, it’s moments like these that almost feel like we’re watching this from the point-of-view of the entity: hiding under the couch or the bed like a monster waiting for the right moment to attack.
I cannot stress this enough: “Skinamarink” is purely experimental, open to interpretation, slow, and not for everyone. Director Kyle Edward Ball makes this explicitly clear in both the film and some interviews.

I don’t necessarily think the film would benefit or lose anything if it were reduced from 100 minutes to 75 or 80, but time plays such a crucial part in building such a suffocating atmosphere that I can’t even be mad about it. Every now and then, there is a micro-budget horror film that comes along that changes, shocks, and divides audiences. We’ve seen this throughout history with “Halloween” (1978), “The Blair Witch Project” (1999), and “Paranormal Activity” (2007) to name a few. I truly feel that, as the years go by and the horror genre continues to evolve, “Skinamarink” will rank among the greats and perhaps wield a cult-classic status. I’ve seen this film twice now once in the theater with equally terrified friends, and the other while I was home alone. Although I’m not going to label it the scariest movie of all time, I can safely say that I haven’t felt this vulnerable, sick, or scared from a horror film in a long time. “Skinamarink” is the work of a director who has a firm understanding of how to get under their audience’s skin–whether they end up liking or disliking the film–as well as the potential to keep building a filmography of many more terrifying creations. I will continue to support them from the sidelines.


“Skinamarink” is available on Amazon Prime Video and Shudder.

Illustration by Ariel Landry