Kyle Edward Ball’s lo-fi and experimental horror feature is now screening at Marcus Point Cinema (and recently opened at AMC Fitchburg).
Kyle Edward Ball’s Skinamarink (2022) has to be in contention for the most experimental 21st century feature to be given a wide release (and kudos to Shudder for giving a big push to such a not-for-everyone film). As with many of the most enduring horror movies, Skinamarink is more about cultivating a vibe, dispensing with all but the barest trappings of a plot, which could theoretically be described as what’s happening on the other side of the TV in Poltergeist (1982). Or it can be seen as a deconstruction of cheaply made found-footage horror films like The Blair Witch Project (1999) and Paranormal Activity (2007) that have been lucrative since the advent of digital cameras, scooping out facets of conventional narrative (analogous to what this bit does to stand-up comedy).
Set in 1995, Skinamarink essentially concerns young brother and sister, Kevin (Lucas Paul) and Kaylee (Dali Rose Tetreault), who are lured through a door (that only sometimes exists) to a version of their house that doesn’t have their parents (Jamie Hill and Ross Paul) in it. The voice toys with them, tries to placate them with public domain cartoons (proving that even mysterious supernatural beings fear copyright infringement suits), and eventually gives them violent instructions for some nefarious but undefined purpose.
But again, just to emphasize the experimental nature of Ball’s approach: human faces only appear on screen a total of three times in the 100-minute runtime, and for no more than a few seconds each time. Most of the dialogue is both hushed and distorted enough that subtitles are intermittently provided, and the camera’s point of view is firmly the two siblings. The lens mostly points up and the large house around them, filtered through a VHS grain that gives the swathes of black a distorted, abstract quality that invites the viewer to mentally fill in something lurking in the darkness like a sinister version of Ken Jacobs’ The Movie That Invites Pausing (2020). If you’re prepared to bring your imagination to those dark corners, you’ll certainly freak yourself out.
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