The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Cinema/Shudder] - SKINAMARINK | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Cinema/Shudder] - SKINAMARINK

Skinamarink review
Two young children are trapped in their home with a seemingly malevolent presence.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Kyle Edward Ball

Starring: Lucas Paul, Dali Rose, Ross Paul, Jaime Hill

Skinamarink poster

The most philistine response you can have to a piece of art is to declare "My kid could paint that!" But let's be honest, haven't we all at some point found ourselves gazing at some Jackson Pollock-esque mess and though that maybe if we left little Johnny in a room with five buckets of paint he might produce something of equal value?

Writer/director Kyle Edward Ball's feature debut Skinamarink is the sort of experimental arthouse film that will provoke such responses, particularly given its (mis-?)marketing to fans of the horror genre as a modern day Blair Witch Project. With lighting so dim you're forced to squint throughout and camera angles that suggest the cinematographer was on acid, it does indeed look like something your kid might film if you let them potter about the house with a camera late at night. In this case though, I think the fact that this piece of art looks like something your kid could paint might be a feature, not a flaw.

Skinamarink review

Ball was previously known for running a YouTube channel in which he invited commenters to recount their creepiest dreams, which he would then visually recreate. Ball found that many commented with a variation of the same dream, in which they had regressed to childhood and were trapped in their home with some sort of malevolent presence. Initially Ball turned this idea into a short titled Heck, and has now expanded it to feature length.

You may have to squint to see it, but there is a story here. Skinamarink is the tale of two young children – four-year-old Kevin (Lucas Paul) and his six-year-old sister Kaylee (Dali Rose Tetreault) – who find themselves alone in their home when their parents (Ross Paul and Jaime Hill) seemingly vanish, along with all the doors and windows (and even the toilet), leaving Kevin and Kaylee trapped with some sort of possibly evil spirit that occasionally beckons from the darkness.

Skinamarink review

And boy is there a lot of darkness here (viewers watching at home may well be tempted to watch the movie in cheat mode by dialling up their TV's brightness and contrast levels). Shunning any conventional storytelling forms, Ball's film consists of a combination of shots that represent the children's POV and others that seem to stare randomly into various corners, panning without capturing or following any specific images. The POV shots give the film the look of a found-footage movie, and it's in these moments that the movie most resembles a traditional piece of horror filmmaking. When Kevin is told to look under a bed, we brace ourselves not just for what he might see, but what we might see, as the film plays on one of our most primal childhood fears, the boogeyman under our bed.

When the film shuns the kids' POV it strays from horror into the world of art installation. At times it feels as though the film has been directed by a household pet, with the camera staring into darkness in the manner of your dog or cat. We can't see anything, so what is it that's holding their attention?

Signs that something supernatural is afoot come in the shape of chairs stuck to the ceiling and cartoons looping themselves on TV. There's the occasional jump scare, but they're not so much cleverly set up as just loud noises thrown in at random points. For all its experimental pretentions, Skinamrink isn't above old-fashioned genre clichés.

Skinamarink review

Like that "What colour is the dress?" meme that went around social media a few years ago, Skinamarink has polarised viewers. Some have found it terrifying, while others have just shrugged and squinted. I have to confess I'm in the latter camp, but I'm willing to admit that may be a "me" issue rather than any fault of the film. If I had a kid, I doubt they could make Skinamarink, as while it never quite worked for me I always felt like Ball was fully in control. My main issue with Skinamarink however is that for a movie with so little dialogue, it too often relies on its child characters telling us they're scared rather than Ball showing us why they're scared.

Skinamarink has become something of a cult sensation, and any curious fan of horror/arthouse cinema will want to try peering into its darkness. What you see in its shadows may depend on what you bring to it yourself. Let me know what colour you think this dress is.

 is in select cinemas now and on Shudder from February 2nd.

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