Skinamarink: A Child’s Worst Nightmare Fully Realized 

Newcomer Kyle Edward Ball Makes a Name For Himself With a Horror Debut That Will Linger With You Long After The Final Shot 

It’s happened to all of us once before. You wake up in the wee hours of the morning, shrouded in darkness as the walls eerily creak all around you. Is it just the house settling? Or is it something else? Something more sinister? We’re told that it’s nothing, that it’s just in our heads. But what if it wasn’t? 

It’s enough to drive even the strongest of minds mad. 

This common nightmare sits at the forefront of every shot in Kyle Edward Ball’s stunning debut, Skinamarink. The film follows two young siblings, Kevin and Kaylee, as they wake up in the middle of the night to find their father gone, and all the doors and windows in the home have disappeared. But as the two pass the (seemingly endless) night with cartoons and toys, they discover that something has taken the place of everything that’s vanished. An evil that seems to be controlling everything around the ill-fated children. 

What the film lacks in plot, it makes up for in atmosphere. From the first shot, it’s clear that this won’t be your typical horror flick. Filled with low angles and obscured subjects, Ball throws you head-first into a nightmare that we’re all too familiar with. Laid on top of these shots is a slate of pure film grain that makes it hard to decipher what exactly it is you’re seeing. It’s a ballsy and sometimes taxing move from a first-time director, but it’s something that makes the film entirely original. Instead of prejudicing the audience with a cheap jump scare from an axe-wielding killer or the shrills of the newest scream queen, Skinamarink builds its fear through terrifyingly real scenarios. Most of the shocks come from children’s fears: being trapped in the dark without a nightlight, looking under the bed for monsters, etc. Fears that we all believed we were far behind us, just as a movie like Skinamarink comes around to tear down all that confidence. 

As the film drags along (I’ll be the first to admit that the pace is painstakingly slow), the confines of reality begin to warp and twist as more household objects start to disappear while others are forced to the ceiling, standing straight up as if gravity has been reversed. This may not sound like much, but each slight change builds the tension until it’s almost unbearably. The normal safety of this suburban home is slowly stripped away with each new development, leaving us to face the fears that Kevin and Kaylee have to face. While most that happens goes unseen, the implication of what’s happening makes the whole thing all the more terrifying. But while this plays into the film’s scares, it also supports the nightmarish atmosphere presented to us. Like the worst kind of nightmares, there’s no rhyme or reason for what is happening. No clear answer to why these kids are being put through these sadistic scares. But isn’t that what makes a nightmare horrifying? The unexplained. 

I’m hard-pressed to think of a film in recent years that has unnerved me as much as Skinamarink did. While it’s a film that requires a lot of patience, it’s something that rewards the viewer for their commitment, scaring them just as they let their guard down. Not to mention that it has one of the scariest jump scares I’ve ever seen in a film. Skinamarink is less of a film and more of an arthouse experience. While I loved it, I understand why most wouldn’t. But one thing’s for sure if you decide to face the darkness, tread carefully. 

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