“Skinamarink”: An Experimental Assault on the Senses [Review]

Critics will often describe a film as an “experience”.  And while that descriptor can very easily be overused, Skinamarink is perhaps the only movie upon which that term fits aptly. The latest Shudder original (released in theaters now and due out on the platform later this year) is truly unlike anything you’ve seen before.  That said, it will inevitably be polarizing and you definitely have to go in with the right expectation.

Style Over Plot
Admittedly narrative or story isn’t Skinamarink’s primary objective.  Its basic premise is two brothers wandering around their house at night while the doors and windows to the outside cease to be.  As they wander around and watch cartoons, they (and the audience) are haunted by a myriad of creepy sights and sounds.

It’s the kind of film that you naturally spend most of its runtime trying to piece together and figure out what sort of hidden meanings or symbolism are present.  But ultimately that’s not the movie’s objective at all.  Some will find it genius, some will find it dumb, some will find it deep, and some will find it shallow.

In the end, as the audience has spent the film’s entire runtime trying to figure out what the point and what it was all really about, their confusion and disorientation is the fulfillment of what the movie was actually trying to do all along.  It’s not so much trying to tell a story as it is assaulting your senses and toying with your mind.

Skinamarink 1
Every now and then, one of these creepy, unexplained faces jumps and screams at the audience.

Actualizing Nightmares
Between the unsettling visuals and irritating sound effects and music, Skinamarink successfully transforms a nightmare and puts it to screen.  It almost feels like a feature length version of the cursed tape from The Ring.  Perhaps the best viewing experience would be at night, alone in the dark.  And then try to immediately walk around your house in the dark and go to bed afterwards.

Skinamarink 2
Samara would be a huge fan of this movie (if she could watch them from the bottom of her well).

It has a way of getting inside your head in a manner akin to David Lynch or Stanley Kubrick.  Writer/Director Kyle Edward Ball set out to recreate some of his own childhood phobias and fears, and that’s very much the case on screen.  It’s shot in a similar guerilla low budget style to The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity, but it’s not quite found footage, and neither of those movies encapsulated fear itself quite like this one.

Inevitably Divisive
I’ll be the first to admit that upon my first viewing of Skinamarink in the theater, I exclaimed “So…what the hell was that?” to which everyone in the theater laughed.  And if you’ve seen any of the online discourse, people seem to either think this film is brilliantly effective or a complete waste of time.  Whenever a horror film receives such critical praise, there are always those to counter it, but this represents a much larger issue.

If you go in expecting this movie to follow a three act structure or feature any of the typical narrative approach, you’re going to be disappointed.  And it’s not the fault of the movie what people’s expectations were.  It’s still incredibly effective at what it’s trying to do.  You  just have to understand that it’s experimental going in.  That being said, it probably could have been just as effective as a 15 minute short film as opposed to a 100 minute feature film.

It’s the type of movie that you honestly think more about in the hours and days after watching because you can’t get it out of your head…

What did you think of Skinamarink?  Let us know in the comments!

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