The first feature film from director and writer Kyle Edward Ball — he’s also made a proof of concept for this movie named Heck and the video for Craig Moreau’s “It Aint Nuthin'” — Skinamarink finds its origins in Bitesized Nightmares, a YouTube channel started by Ball that visualized nightmares contributed by commenters.
Shot in the Edmonton, Alberta home that Ball grew up in for $15,000, this has all the buzz of a major debut. And that fine, as it has a definite feel for the weirdness that is within the darkness and long hallways and how terrifying it is to be a child. But then it just goes on and on, with arty shots of Lego blocks and upside down rooms and people with no faces played over cartoon soundtracks and hiss and static.
There’s no narrative here and the idea that keeps getting pushed — “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.” — would not be easy to find unless you knew it going in.
It’s the kind of film that would wow your film school professor at ten minutes but at 100 minutes, this is the kind of movie that has one frightening thing: looking to see how much time is left throughout the film and feeling like more time keeps getting added and you must push yourself like some kind of marathon runner just to endure its endless repetitive layer images and noise-filled audio.
This is a movie filled with jump cuts for people above jump cuts but who can proclaim it as cinema.
This is a movie for people to feel good about themselves for liking it and being ahead of people who “just don’t get it” (see We’re All Going to the World’s Fair).
This is a movie where people will tweet about how it changed them and they can’t shake its darkness but it’s all just words like fever dream, slow burn and takes chances which are just Film Twitter words that really are sound and fury signifying nothing.
Just imagine: You put a whole bunch of quiet scenes together, then turn on the lights and get loud. Of course everyone screams.
Much like the worst of elevated horror, it all goes back to bad parenting. I mean, those Legos aren’t going to clean themselves up. “Somewhere in Dreamland” is a cartoon from the past which is very hit the nail on the head in this. And I really dislike the fake grain and pops added to this, like something out of that fake grindhouse trend a few years ago.
The real terror within this movie is just like how Host won’t stop replicating as inferior Zoom horror movies, I’ll be sent so many movies next year that just stare at an old toy for an hour while someone plays an xylophone in the background and makes coffee, but shot on an old PXL2000 camera and a Casio soundtrack. Get ready for so many press releases that start with “Influenced by Skinamarink.”
I think that Ball has something in him as this movie sets up some interesting things and then never delivers on them. It’s just waiting for the next scare, almost like a deconstructed horror film that’s above simple scares yet uses them repeatedly. He said about this movie, “Shooting a movie in the house you grew up in about two characters that are more or less you and your sister, I didn’t have to try to make it more personal—it just sort of happened. And then an added benefit was my mom had saved a bunch of childhood toys that we used in the movie, so it got even more personal.”
I’d like to see that movie, because I have no idea if any of that came into the film, so this feels more made for the artist than the audience. And then the audience wants to feel like an artist and champion it and feel superior. But it’s truly a slog, a long death march where I felt like I had to finish it and make it through and when the end credits came up, it really did feel like 572 days long.
I mean, if this was made with a camcorder and a $300 budget in 1984 and released on Tempe Video, I’d probably feel differently about it. I’d also defend this if it were directed by Bruno Mattei and stole most of its soundtrack from Phantasm.
I feel like this was my Jacob’s Ladder and I’m still stuck watching it.
What do I know?
Whenever I eat haute cuisine, I’m always starving afterward and have to stop at a gas station and get several hot dogs off the roller.
You can learn more on the official site for the movie.