Review by Camden Ferrell
Few people can truly say their directorial debut was something memorable and never seen before, but Kyle Edward Ball can. His new movie Skinamarink may very well be one of the most memorable directorial debuts of recent years. After premiering at the 2022 Fantasia Film Festival, it found success at other festivals before getting a theatrical release this January. Even though it can fall victim to its own meticulously slow ambition, Ball’s debut has some truly unnerving and memorable moments that will scare you more than your average horror movie.
Kevin and Kaylee are two young children who wake up in the middle of the night. As they awake, they find that their parents are gone and that the doors and windows are missing from the house. This film follows them through this slow and unsettling evening as the audience must come to terms with what is being presented through lo-fi footage. It’s a bare bones premise, but with a movie like this, the simpler the plot the better.
Written by Ball, this movie is as minimal as it gets in terms of story. It sacrifices narrative conventions in order to focus more on the haunting and dreadful realism of the scenes presented. One would be remiss to say the movie is plotless though. It is experimental and lacks standard narrative, but this movie is very clear with the story its telling and the experience it is trying to convey.
The audience is taken through the house with unnerving and seemingly endless static shots of the ceilings, corners, and crevices of this home. Ball makes the great decision to keep the audience in the dark —figuratively and literally—as he takes us through this experience. The occasional television footage provides a haunting glow to an otherwise almost unseeable dark movie.
The film’s darkness is what gives the movie most of it fear factor. There are a few jump scares and loud noises, but those aren’t what’s scary about it. What’s most brilliant and disturbing about this movie is how Ball subtly brings in terrifying elements to the static darkness which creates a unique sense of impending doom. As an audience member, we don’t know if what we’re seeing is the movie or of our own mind.
However, the movie is extremely experimental in nature and will definitely turn off many viewers. It feels like an even more stripped-down version of the already minimal Paranormal Activity if you were to remove all of its narrative conventions. There are times where the movie can feel pointlessly slow, but this is compensated by some truly nerve-wracking dread at surprising moments.
While this is a bold movie that you should definitely support in theaters, I believe that watching this at home alone in the dark will truly give you the most distressing experience that you won’t forget any time soon. Skinamarink is an exiting debut from Ball and a gift to horror fans in 2023.
Skinamarink is in theaters January 13.