Skinamarink: Welcome to the World of Immersion Horror

by Stephanie Shamblin Gray

Every so often, the horror genre takes a huge step in evolution. This new step is in the form of Skinamarink, an experimental, micro-budget horror film from Kyle Edward Ball. Focused on the point of view of a child living within a nightmare world, this film demands you lose yourself in a trance and experience the film as if the nightmare was your own.

The synopsis of the story is very simple. Kaylee, age six, and Kevin, age four, wake up at night and can’t find their father. Bizarrely, the windows and doors seem to be gone, as well. So Kevin and Kaylee try to keep themselves occupied by playing Legos and watching cartoons. We slowly, very slowly, have more and more reveals indicating something is very wrong in this house.

The execution is what sets Skinamarink apart from other films. A cross between vintage film styling with static and found footage point-of-view, the camera shows us long shots of walls and objects in the home. Characters’ faces are not focused on and everything is from a child’s point of view. Lighting is often just a nightlight or the light of cartoons on TV. The cartoons also provide the music in the film. The sound design varies greatly in intensity and distortion. Theaters are playing it loud and it would be recommended to do the same if streaming at home. Generally, there is really not much here that would be considered “standard” components for any film.

If you follow horror on any social media, you have likely already read the debates online ranging on whether this is the “most terrifying movie ever made” or, conversely, even a movie at all. The answer may very well depend on how deeply you want to dive in. Watching in the dark with headphones on may keep you awake all night; however, a casual viewer will likely find this film boring or even irritating, and not scary at all. But whether you are the person who watches this and thinks it is the “stupidest movie ever made” or, conversely, you need a massage afterward from being so tense for so long, you may want to watch just so you can weigh in on the debate and say you were there at the beginning of this new style of horror film. Because if The Blair Witch Project taught us anything, it is that a very successful, low-budget film that gets much hype will result in others following in their wake.

Skinamarink is not for the impatient. It is certainly not for anyone searching for any comforting familiarity in a horror movie. This film is for the horror fan looking for a new way to experience horror and dread. If you are willing to cut out all other distractions and allow yourself to be immersed, you might find it to be an excellent meditation of the nightmare realm.

Skinamarink is playing in limited theaters and is now streaming on Shudder.

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