'Skinamarink' Review: Two Siblings Live Through A Childhood Nightmare Inside Their Horror House
You know something is super indie when you have to type a very specific term in order to find it, because surely someone doesn't just stumble upon a misspelled version of a children's tune. Director-writer-editor Kyle Edward Ball makes his feature debut with an experimental, lo-fi horror film Skinamarink, made with a budget that often doesn't result in a theatrical release of any kind nowadays anymore. It finds two siblings, six-year-old Kaylee (Dali Rose Tetreault) and four-year-old Kevin (Lucas Paul), awake in the middle of the night only to discover their dad (Ross Paul) gone, mom (Jaime Hill) acting strange and windows and doors similarly missing. We follow the kids' terrors from obscure angles as the house turns into a nightmare.
Something that feels like it's important to mention when talking about a movie like this is how you come across and experience it. For me, I'm rather grateful not knowing anything about the premise, story or budget beforehand, only hearing some good word-of-mouth from the horror festival circuit. That's why it's easy to understand why it would be a great theatrical experience as it can work as a claustrophobic trip which you won't forget even if you're seeing multiple films at a festival. Even though the end product is largely a filmmaker's showcase so Ball can get a bigger budget next time, it's a scrappy little underdog that will be mentioned a lot in the same breath as legacy of 'The Blair Witch Project' or 'Paranormal Activity', not because of its content necessarily but because of conversations it invites in horror space.
In regard to how it is a pretty successful calling card for the filmmakers, Skinamarink's nightmare scenario instantly invokes a chilly mood because it reminds us of nonsensical scary dreams we all have had, particularly as kids. Ball, his creative team and cast make a lot out of nothing to build on that, especially in terms of sound which is always just a little bit off without ever relying on pure annoyance. Only major thing that hurts this audiovisual immersion is the repetitive nature of shots and mise-en-scène that cinematographer Jamie McRae is stuck with; there's a limit in how much artificial digital grain and lack of contrast one can enjoy, especially when it then leads you to expect some kind of change in that filmmaking. 100 minutes is too much for lo-fi, low-budget horror when that never occurs. Thankfully most if it does earn a reaction, though.
Smileys: Atmosphere, premise
Wake up babe, a new nightmare dropped.