Skinamarink (2022) – Kyle Edward Ball

What could have been a descent into a childhood nightmarish dreamscape is frustratingly held back by a gimmick that overstays its welcome and leaves viewers struggling to grasp at any strands to form some kind of coherent narrative.

With unusual camera angles that prevent the viewer from seeing anything of import or creating a context for the narrative, the images are drenched in shadow and rendered with the feel of a worn-out piece of film.

Set in 1995, this experimental horror film, as much as one can ascertain, is set over the course of one night. Two children, Kevin (Lucas Paul) and Kaylee (Dali Rose Tetreault) wake in the middle of the night to discover that their father (Ross Paul) is missing, they don’t want to talk about what happened to their mother (Jaime Hill) and strangely enough, any windows or doors leading to the outside world seem to have vanished.

The children aren’t overly alarmed by any of these developments, though they are a little frightened. They attempt to assuage this by watching old cartoons on their VCR and playing with their toys, but it becomes clear, as much as it can, that there is someone, something, in the house with them.

And it has a plan for them.

One at a time, strange voices call the children upstairs or to the basement, even as it moves furniture and toys around the room, even placing them atop the ceiling. There are hints of something truly spooky going on here, and if a viewer can really get into this film (something that was prevented me by its frustrating camera angles) it could probably get under their skin and be really frightening.

There is a nightmarish quality to the way the film plays out, glimpses of strange things and moments, the troubling voices and laughter, the hints of violence, but with no real glimpse at any of these things, the film passes through the transom of the kind and could find itself as quickly forgotten as a slightly troubling dream.

I really wanted to like this one as I was enchanted by the idea, but I didn’t care for the fact that we weren’t given anything to really build a narrative or even an experience upon. It could have been a truly terrifying experience, but instead, it danced along the edges of frustration and denies the viewer any real enjoyment, frights, or even contemplation as it seems to intent on leaning into its own gimmick.

I applaud the idea, but think it could have been done just a little better, and allow for a more engaging story, even if it wanted to edge along the nightmarish like the film wanted to hint at.

This one just didn’t work for me.


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