Skinamarink is an unconventional horror that is unbelievably terrifying.
Skinamarink (2022) Review By Mark McPherson
Published on February 28, 2023
Rating 4.5 /5
As far as minimal horror films go, Skinamarink is one of the most remarkable microbudget films of the past few years. Made for a mere $15,000, this is a creepy experience of a deeply disturbing nightmare. It’s not conventional as the horrors are not easy to pin down, nor is the filmmaking standard by favoring a heavy amount of ambiguity in the framing. If you’re willing to stick with this picture, it is one of the most terrifying films in years, considering how little it took to assemble.
The film is set in an average suburban home of the 1990s. Kevin and Kayle are siblings who can’t sleep and stay up watching TV, trying to stay out of the way of their strangely distant parents upstairs. With the parents mostly hiding from the kids, the brother and sister duo soon find themselves trapped in a house with no exit. Parts of the interior start disappearing, including doors and toilets. As time passes, escape seems impossible as some unknown entity continues toying with the children with dark intent, eventually leading to surreal violence.
Director Kyle Edward Ball is keen to work with the limitations of his camera but highlight something intensely cerebral and chilling. We sparingly see the faces of the children and never the total figure of the parents. The camera is kept strictly to close-ups, focusing on the carpet's fibers, the TV's glow, and the mess of toys on the floor. There’s a heavy level of ambiguity that may frustrate some, especially for the grainy footage that makes the darkness all the more haunting. The pacing has a slow and uncertain nature, where it never feels like you fully grasp the situation. It perfectly fits the scenario of an unbound nightmare where you have zero control over the random weirdness and frights that befall your subconscious.
The frights of the unknown entity are allowed to simmer throughout the film. The house slowly disappears and shifts around its many elements. Toys, once on the floor, move toward the walls and ceilings. The same happens for doors and windows—the sparse dialogue shifts between being inaudibly quiet and shockingly loud. The darker elements of violence come in short bursts of cut body parts and removed mouths, moving in and out of the picture where it becomes difficult to tell where everybody is in this narrative. Even time shifts to the point where more than 500 days pass with little change in the dark and enclosed environment.
I can’t stress enough how this type of film will not be everybody’s cup of tea. If you’re into the standard jumpscare, toss-your-popcorn style horror present in films like The Conjuring, this will not be for you. The best barometer would depend on how well you can stick with long surreal films like Stalker and Solaris, even though Skinamarink is under two hours. Trying to confess the scariness of this film will lead to people bringing up a part of themselves in addressing the horror beyond the surface level. Let’s just say that if you grew up with night terrors, there’s a high level of relatability for the disturbing nature of this film.
Skinamarink is an unconventional horror that is unbelievably terrifying. The final frame that reveals the blurry and grainy face of the controlling monster who doesn’t reveal his name or purpose is such a chilling conclusion. In addition to the biggest scare of a ringing toy phone, this picture has so many unforgettable scenes that will easily creep into your nightmares. What a fantastic horror film made on a small budget, proving you don’t need the biggest special effects to tell a genuinely cerebral, memorable scary movie.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.