Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews - By Fans For Fans



Directed by Kyle Edward Ball.
Starring Lucas Paul, Dali Rose Tetreault.
Horror, US, 105 minutes.

Streaming on Shudder from 2nd February.


The internet is a funny place. Towards the end of last year word started spreading about this little horror film called SKINAMARINK that had just started the festival circuit. The word was good, praising its nightmarish quality, and then a copy of it leaked online, starting a small wave of hype and support that boded well for whenever the film would get a proper, legal release, which has now been made possible by Shudder. Now more people have seen it and the critical consensus among those who have seen it is drawing some wildly varying reactions. “Fuck you. I just spent an hour and 40 minutes of my life staring at furniture,” “I’ve wasted 100 minutes of my life on this bucket of shit” are just a couple of comments that can be found on the likes of Letterboxd and Facebook. Everyone’s a critic these days it seems.


Maybe if SKINAMARINK, a $15,000 debut feature was released more quietly and without the small cycle of illicit hype that initially greeted it, Kyle Edward Ball’s impressionistic nightmare would have been greeted more favourably, especially by those with a taste for the more experimental end of the genre. There are flaws on display here but there is also an undeniable sense that Ball has a knack for portraying unsettling, nightmarish imagery that strikes a primal chord within the viewer. The story, if it can be called that, takes place in a suburban house in 1995. Young brother and sister Kevin and Kaylee wake up to find their father has left the house. Left on their own they creep around in the darkness, illuminated only by the light of a blaring television discovering that all the windows and doors have vanished and that something else is stuck inside within them.


As you can see the film is light on plot, but this seems hardly a concern for Ball. Based off a recurring nightmare from his own childhood this is exclusively an exercise in visual and mood-based storytelling. Like a nightmare we barely see our protagonists in full; a glimpse of a hand or foot as they linger unsurely around bedroom doors or upstairs hallways which are engulfed by gaping chasms of darkness. They whisper to each other, the dialogue barely audible, capturing that sense of being caught up past their bedtime, which in childhood feels like a capital offence but here carries a much more terrifying prospect. It is this sense of childhood terror that works so successfully.


That the film tests your patience is undeniable. At one hundred minutes a sense of repetitiveness sets in, particularly with the insistent reliance of focusing on such mundane visual details found in every household; skirting boards and ceilings, scattered Legos all sound tracked by a warbling distorted television are the order of the day here so you can see why some audiences have been so hostile to the film. What could have been a classic short film is stretched out beyond breaking point. While Shudder should be commended for bringing the film to its platform and a wider audience it is hard not to feel that a darkened cinema would be the place to immerse yourself in the nightmare landscape and sound scape that Ball revels in sharing here. Watching in the comfort of your home with multiple distractions temptingly at hand can be a struggle.


For those with the patience who tune into the film’s singular wavelengths however, there is much to admire. Ball’s talent for slowly unveiling figures and faces in the granular darkness works as well as any well-tuned jump scare. If he can make a Fisher Price toy telephone disturbing, then who knows what else he is capable of. While not for everyone, SKINAMARINK will no doubt find a cult audience and already has some of us wondering what other nightmarish and personal visions he is willing to share with us.


Iain MacLeod.


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Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews
By Fans For Fans