This might be the most challenging review I’ve ever written. Skinamarink is a terrifying experience. It’s unsettling. Every amount of praise you’ve seen heaped onto it is pretty accurate. However, that creeping feeling you get while watching it would be better served in a theater. Skinamarink is less of a movie and more of a communal experience. Sure, it would be a terrifying one to throw on while you’re alone in the dark, but there’s something to seeing other people react to something like this. For total transparency, I watched Skinamarink on my computer with headphones on.
If you’ve ever woken up and looked across the room in the dark and seen a chair or something that looked like a monster, that’s the experience with Skinamarink. It follows two children who wake up in the middle of the night to find their father is missing and adding to the terror, all the doors and windows in their house are gone. Director/Writer Kyle Edward Ball takes a David Lynch approach to the proceedings with extended looks at what seem to be standard household settings that morph and change. This isn’t your typical horror movie, though. Instead, it takes an increasingly unsettling approach that doesn’t rely on jumps (there are still some here) but more on atmosphere and tension. Good god, there’s some tension in this movie.
I was unnerved within the first five minutes of Skinamarink. That feeling doesn’t let up throughout the movie. There’s no point where you can relax. But it’s not frantic tension. Instead, this is like a nightmare where objects change, and everyday situations and settings can be horrifying.
Not An Easy Viewing Experience
That plot description might make this sound like a Paranormal Activity knockoff or some haunted house movie, but that would be the furthest from the truth. That’s the easy way out. There’s nothing easy about the one-hour and forty-minute runtime for Skinamarink.
For starters, there isn’t a single human face shown straight on. It’s all faceless ghouls/specters/monsters/ghosts/horrifying constructs of children’s minds on screen. There might not be a straight shot of anything in the house in the film, either. The voices in the movie are garbled. They’re disembodied; some require subtitles to hear. However, those subtitles aren’t to be trusted. Nothing is to be trusted in this movie. That’s part of the terror. Things change on a dime, like a dream turning into a nightmare, and images flicker back and forth.
This movie is the best description I’ve had for sleep paralysis. You can scream, you can wiggle, but you can’t move. Imagine waking up at night and hearing a whisper around the corner, just away from view. That’s the kind of terror Skinamarink brings. As far as a plot or answers, I have none for Skinamarink. That’s the point, though. Every time you think you have a response or a reason for why the film’s events are happening, it gets tossed aside.
Anxiety Incarnate Mixed With Sound Design For The Ages
Skinamarink is uncomfortable to watch. It hangs on shots for longer than anyone else does. There’s no score to remind you that you’re watching a movie. Everything is designed to make you anxious. I had to sleep with the TV on last night because of this movie. You never see the two kids with whom you’re on this journey, which aids the film and makes the audience part of the experience. Everyone has had a nightmare like this before. We’ve woken up with the TV on some random “paid programming” or public-domain cartoons as the only light.
Skinamarink slams home that our imagination can create something far scarier than anything we can show on the screen. It’s one of the most all-in films on creating an atmosphere of fear and tension. From the film grain to sound design, lack of sound, lack of faces, and lack of actual plot, it’s 100 minutes that will change you as an audience.
It’s not hyperbole to say that this is the most unnerving and anxiety-inducing movie I’ve ever seen.
You can see Skinamarink in theaters (highly recommended), or you can wait until it’s streaming on Shudder at a later date.
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