After reading so many polarized reactions to Skinamarink basically saying it would either be the most boring or most terrifying movie I would ever watch, I decided I wanted to be terrified. So despite rarely smoking or using THC products, I downed a bunch of THC tonic, turn off all the lights, and watch a movie that has been equated to The Blair Witch Project of its generation a number of times. My senses were heightened like I had Spidey-Sense, but instead of making me great at vigilantism it just made me extremely scared of everything.
This was both a mistake and a great decision for the same reason: I was literally terrified by this movie. I was so terrified I spent the last five minutes standing as far back from the TV as possible literally begging for the movie to end.
As someone who never got that feeling from The Blair Witch Project, I feel like I eliminated a big chunk of FOMO by scaring myself so bad with this movie I was shaking while holding my hand up over my eyes. On the other hand, this is unfortunately the energy I brought to the rest of the evening.
So this is both a spoiler-filled reaction to Skinamarink (yes the narrative is pretty lean/straightforward, but I will be going into details as to what I think happened), and a summary of my experience for the sack of your entertainment.
From IMDb: Two children wake up in the middle of the night to find their father is missing, and all the windows and doors in their home have vanished.
Going into this movie, someone very helpfully suggested watching Director/Writer Kyle Edward Ball’s short film “Heck” first to have a solid sense of what you are in for with Skinamarink. “Heck” is not only filmed in the same liminal, grainy, nightmare-like style as Skinamarink, but involves a nearly identical premise of a small child trapped alone in a dark house that may or may not contain some kind of malevolent presence.
I honestly found “Heck” to be even more heartbreaking than Skinamarink thanks to it featuring two scenes that really speak to the child’s isolation and growing sense of desperation. In one scene, the child cleans their room to try and get their mom to appear, calling out “Mom I cleaned my room. Come and see.” In another scene, the child draws on the walls in order to try and elicit a response – realizing even a negative response is better than the sinking feeling they will never get any response again.
Still, I did doze off the first time I tried to watch “Heck” so I understand that Ball’s style is not for everybody. But it does play with a lot of the key mechanics that made Skinamarink so successful.
Skinamarink has only 500 lines of dialogue, and at best they were unnerving or uncanny. At worst (most of the time), they were the most terrifying lines and insinuations I have ever heard in a horror film. With the unconventional camera angles and lack of a frame of reference for how close the entity was at any given point, it often felt like it went from white noise to something otherworldly whispering directly in your ear, coaxing you to join it.
Despite the minimal amount of dialogue, I saw Girl, That’s Scary! mention the captions being helpful and I’m really glad I put them on. Captions are a huge clue to a lot of what is happening and informed a lot of my interpretation.
I can see why the film is referred to as found footage as shorthand for the thoroughly unusual style of experimental camerawork. Most of the time the camera is just sitting somewhere, staring helplessly at the dark corner behind a couch or a ceiling lamp. Strange details or angles only a child would take note of. I could see why these shots make some viewers restless or terrified, but for me they are most successful at capturing the uncanny valley of everyday life as only a child can see it.
You grow so used to static or oscillating shots, the first time the camera does switch to a more handheld, first-person found footage style when Kaylee is looking around the upstairs bedroom it is enough to elicit heart palpitations. What has caught Kaylee’s attention so high on the ceiling? Something that shouldn’t be nearly as effective as it is, but leads to a well-earned jump anyway.
I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream
The nightmares the movie conjures up play with things we’ve seen in horror before, but in a decidedly unique style. Parents acting unnatural and no longer being sources of support and protection. Children’s naivety being manipulated and preyed upon. Torture and bloody murder – never seen, but horrifically implied just outside of our line of vision. The flicker of hope when a 911 call goes through before it turns out to be another trick – leading to the sinking realization there is no escaping. Most horror films leave some sliver of hope that the characters can break free, but this one gives me the same hopelessness I got from movies like Grave Encounters, The Poughkeepsie Tapes, Megan is Missing, and the newer The Deep House.
A New Nightmare
After a while, I was especially frightened because I truly trusted this movie would never do something cheap. I get as startled as the next person by big studio releases, but after a while you know when they are gonna start in with the downpour of generic CGI bullshit akin to the “screamer” videos from the earlier days of the internet.
The jump scares and disturbing imagery from Skinamarink are not cheap. Ball’s uncompromising vision and creative control really pay off in this regard – there is no way a major studio would have released this movie as is without meddling. There are things that can’t be explained, but it never devolves into a CGI shadow twitching and shrieking as it rushes the camera. It is so refreshing to see a movie resist doing that while it knowingly lets your expectations and imagination run rampant. The more you watch horror and know its usual tricks, the more some of the scenes in this movie will persistently tug at your nerve endings till you realize your are being fully marionetted by an expert with an insane amount of restraint to not settle for cheap thrills.
Horror is an incredible genre. It seems so easy to box up and classify till you keep scratching and realize how expansive it is. The same genre that can have us rooting for M3GAN as she goes after a child has our blood running ice cold when presence in Skinamarink calmly tells a little boy to stick a knife in his eye.
What I Think Is Going On In Skinamarink
I really love all the theories and analysis I’ve seen about this movie. My interpretation is pretty pedestrian, but I really subscribe to the idea a demon that can manipulate space and time was in the family’s home and created a time loop to torture the children to death over and over after killing the parents. I think the demon pushed Kevin down the stairs at the beginning (or at least manipulated him into going down them while sleepwalking), and Kevin is talking to the demon before he falls when he says “Are you hiding?” Later, Kevin bleeds out from his eye wound in our reality, but is stuck in an alternate dimension time loop thereafter (hence the 572 days later cue, upside down house, and never-ending tunnel). The loop is indicated by the cartoon glitching to play over and over again and the futile call to 911. Even the start of the film features the sounds of a tape whirring, clicking, and repeating in a loop.
I also think the demon tortures both Kevin and Kaylee repeatedly because during the blood splatter/shriek loop, the caption states, “older child screams” – suggesting both children are getting tortured repeatedly.
Alternatively, I do think there is merit to arguments I’ve seen about the dad being abusive and the demon being more of a metaphor for the abuse the kids have conjured up. In an early scene, the Dad seems really devoid of emotion when describing Kevin falling down the stairs and not needing stitches. Moreover, when he gets up from bed after Kevin falls, the captions (the optional closed captions as opposed to the ones in the film itself) indicate the sound of “Fabric Rustling.” This caption appears frequently throughout the film when the demon is nearby.
Is Skinamarink Worth It?
Wholeheartedly yes. This gave me the feeling I wish I got from The Blair Witch Project all those years ago, and it is kind of incredible to feel this scared by a horror movies as an adult. It isn’t an exaggeration to say I watched about half this film with my hand over my eyes as soon as the “look under the bed” nonsense started. If you give this movie an earnest chance and open mind, it can be extremely rewarding if rewarding means you nearly have a heart attack when a car honks outside while you are looking a picture of the Fisher Price telephone toy from the movie.
While I can’t deny that the edible probably factored into the sheer terror I felt, it has been hard for me to rewatch scenes in order to write this. I think this film will really get to anyone with a vivid imagination since you will constantly be filling in those negative spaces. Even rewatching it, I felt like I was seeing things creep around in the shadows. I spent the remainder of the night trying to calm myself down by watching old music videos before nearly scaring myself to death again when an ad came on for the movie before a video played.
If you are at all interested in horror movies and don’t mind something experimental, it is well worth it to give this one a shot. I went into this with pretty low expectations and was pleasantly terrified. I completely understand why it doesn’t work for many viewers, but it is worth the time to see if it will work for you.
2 thoughts on “Toilets, FOMO, and Trauma-Bonding with Looney Tunes: Is Skinamarink Worth It?”
this is pretty much the exact same experience i had with the film, down to the ‘enhanced’ viewing experience – kudos for finishing it at all, i had my hands over my eyes long before any demonic voices arrived and quit watching about an hour in😅love your content btw!
Haha glad to know I wasn’t alone in this experience! Thank you so much for this kind comment I really appreciate it