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DIRECTED BY: Kyle Edward Ball
FEATURING: Dali Rose Tetreault, Lucas Paul, Ross Paul, Jamie Hill
PLOT: Young Kevin and Kaylee find themselves in the house alone late at night, hearing bumps, seeing poltergeist activity, and eventually conversing with unseen voices.
COMMENTS: Everything you’ve heard about Skinamarink is true. Yes, it is made up of often-silent, oddly-framed, static-fogged shots of doors, lamps, and Legos. The sparse dialogue is occasionally inaudible. Items move mysteriously and gravity is briefly reversed, but the liveliest action comes from public domain cartoons. There are no clear explanations, and some of the information we do receive is contradictory. It’s boring, and it’s mesmerizing, and it’s tedious, and it’s terrifying. Even its most ardent defenders will likely concede that, at 100 minutes, it’s unjustifiably long. It may be best conceptualized as unedited, jumbled security camera footage from a child’s nightmare.
Skinamrink defies analysis. It puts you into the point of view of a child dealing with a nighttime world that’s simultaneously familiar and strange, your mind coping with your lack of understanding by filling in details. As much as any film we’ve ever reviewed, Skinamarink invites you to create your own narrative, whether you view it as a supernatural haunting, a metaphor for abuse, or simply a feature length immersion in childhood fears. If you’re looking for clues, perhaps pay attention to the first line of clearly spoken dialogue, which occurs twelve minutes in—although even that nugget of information is capable of multiple interpretations.
I can’t unconditionally recommend Skinamrink, but I can’t deny its power, either. As with all experimental cinema, your results will vary in proportion to your disposition, your patience, and the amount of work and imagination you’re willing to put into it. I will say that, if you’re not frightened off by excessive minimalism and the idea of murky visions, whispered conversations, and twisted nostalgia for a time when you were frightened of the boogeyman and monsters under your bed appeals to you, then you should definitely seek out Skinamarink.
Skinamarink got an unlikely theatrical run for a microbudget film, generating good word of mouth, bad word of mouth, and bitter arguments among horror fans. Though falling well short of inciting a Blair Witch style audience mania, it’s safe to assume the project has more than earned back its $15,000 budget.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“The point of view that the camera shows is, seemingly, sometimes that of one or the other of the children, but the skewing and fragmentation of perspective suggests an attempt to recover the unworldliness and incomprehension of early childhood, the fragmentary incoherence of children’s experience, even the psychoanalytic substitution of heavily cathected and weirdly dominant minor objects or visions to stand in for much more momentous ones… Yet the movie’s horrors and uncanny aspects mostly remain at the theoretical level… The images appear to be the tip of an iceberg, but there’s no iceberg beneath them.”–Richard Brody, The New Yorker (contemporaneous)