FILM COLUMN – Skinamarink

SKINAMARINK is more bizarre art experimentation than horror cinema for the masses.

This, the debut film from Canadian writer and director Kyle Edward Ball, is an unsettling and discombobulating watch from beginning to end. If you have come looking for cheap thrills and mindless entertainment, then you’ve most certainly come to the wrong place.

Ball’s movie would really be better suited as an installation in a gallery rather than being viewed as a cinematic experience. This is definitely one for the chin strokers and cheese nibblers of the world.

Five minutes in and I was already bewildered and ready to give up on it. But, I am a trooper, and so opted to give it five more minutes to see if it got going at all.

It didn’t, but I stuck with it.

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Grainy and murky, this unique movie looks like something that was filmed on an old VHS tape that had been recorded over about 100 times. It is a challenge to sit through, and even more frustrating to figure out what is going on in the shadows.

Skinamarink, now showing on Shudder, tells the story of two young children.

Four-year-old Kevin (Lucas Paul) and his six-year-old sister Kaylee (Dali Rose Tetreault) wake up in the middle of the night to find their parents missing. Windows and doors have disappeared. The lights don’t work and they are home alone.

Or are they?

There is clearly a diabolical force at play and the two children, whose faces we never see, stumble around quietly and afraid, searching for their family in the dark.

The whole scene unfolds in the gloom of an unlit and spooky house where old children’s cartoons, on an equally antiquated television set, helps break the disquiet and give the children a sense of familiarity and calm, in the most mystifying of circumstances.

We see a torch shine on the stairs and ceiling offering patches of light into the unknown as they search for answers, and more importantly — their parents. There is no real dialogue, just disconcerting whispers from the darkness.

“Are you hiding?” Kevin softly asks.

A daring glimpse into children’s night terrors, Ball’s film is a lo-fi undertaking that has to be applauded, even if it feels like sitting through the cursed video tape from The Ring for 100 minutes.