In this house…we talk about Skinamarink.
This is mostly because the majority of people I know haven’t seen it, and I need to dump my thoughts onto the internet. I was originally going to just tweet about this–put my words out as a way to bait others who have seen the movie to discuss with me–but the one tweet quickly turned into a five-tweet-long thread, so I decided to just write a blog instead. Plus, the last couple of blogs have been a little longer than I aim for, so this will be a nice, shorter one. Anyway, let’s dive into it.
Full spoilers for Skinamarink ahead!
Skinamarink is described as a 2022 Canadian experimental horror film written and directed by Kyle Edward Ball in his feature directorial debut. It’s set in 1995 and basically follows two kids who awake one night to find all the doors and windows in their house have disappeared, and they are unable to locate their parents (sort of). They are routinely harassed by some malevolent entity that acts more like a child than they do–moving toys around and calling out to them to “come upstairs” every 15 minutes. He’s just a little prankster boy, that demon thing. It’s implied that the kids–or maybe just one kid because one of them seems to be killed after the entity “takes her mouth,” because she never appears again–end up spending a very long time in the hell created by the entity and is exposed to a long, drawn-out torture, and I kind of felt like I could commiserate by the end of the movie.
The movie starts with one of the kids falling down the stairs and the dad getting up to take him to the hospital (this is all implied because they really show the audience much), so there are theories that the whole movie is a dream or that the kid died and now he’s trapped in hell. I guess the “it was all a dream” explanation is totally in play too.
Anyway, I watched Skinamarink about a month or so ago when it dropped on Shudder and, while it had some really excellent horror imagery & created an uncomfortable atmosphere, it ultimately left me exhausted. It felt like it dragged in parts & I got annoyed with the entity pretty quickly. I eventually landed on “they tried to create the vibe of an inescapable hell, & were successful on that front.” The thing is, since I watched it, not a week has gone by where I haven’t thought about it. I went through Twitter and Reddit, read other people’s takes, and skimmed the Wikipedia article, which informed me that Kyle Edward Ball got his start running the Bitesized Nightmares YouTube channel, which focused on trying to recreate actual descriptions of dreams (mostly nightmares, obviously), which was the venue for the “proof of concept” that led to Skinamarink, titled Heck.
Heck follows a similar story and it, unfortunately, brought me back to that boredom I felt near the end of Skinamarink almost immediately. That said, it also offered a brief bit of respite by showcasing how long the character(s) had been stuck with a quick “X sleeps later” interstitial. When this number slowly crept upward, I became more invested as I understood the breadth of the character’s struggles without having to feel stuck in my own personal hell. Essentially, Heck just had tighter, more effective storytelling.
In the end, I really appreciate some of Skinamarink for what it achieved—there are some truly haunting scenes and images—but I definitely think it could have been better served by trimming some of the fat.
I love that little rotary phone toy, though.
THE WORLD IS YOUR BURRITO!
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