In 1995, two young children named Kevin (Lucas Paul) and Kaylee (Dali Rose Tetreault) wake up during the night and discover that their father has completely vanished. There is no note or evidence suggesting where he may have gone. The two begin to look around the large home and discover many strange and unexplainable things. Written and directed by Kyle Edward Ball, this is a directional debut.
This film requires patience and attention from its viewers to appreciate what it is and how different it is from a typical horror film. I was initially surprised by the atmosphere and filming style, and during the opening act, I found everything moved slowly at a baby snail’s pace. Even if viewers don’t appreciate how this film tells its story and style, you can’t deny it’s still highly effective and memorable and offers a new cinema experience.
Jumping straight into the positives, the most praise goes to the grindhouse-style look of the film. While the film is, in fact, a new release, it looks convincing that it was made at a different time. Despite being set in 1995, the filming style and general look are much older. The static-like grain throughout the entire movie, the sound stage, which includes faint crackles and pops, and even the way the introductory credits appear at the start are all fascinating. These unusual effects should please cinephiles as they experience something new.
If you watch this film in the right atmosphere, such as a dark cinema, or on your own, you will find the movie successful with its build-up, mystery and creepiness. The entire film and its storytelling are highly ambiguous and vague. Many moments throughout could result in different interpretations among audiences, especially when strange noises are heard that are not always shown on-screen. You’ll be surprised if you expect to see full-body shots of characters wandering around or long shots of rooms. Instead, many close-ups are used throughout as Ball slowly creates a world full of unsettling tension. Shots consisting of toys, walls, light switches, ceilings, or even something as innocently childish and friendly as a pile of Lego or colouring books suddenly become creepy and strange to look at.
Atop the creepy visuals, Skinamarink contains a strange and haunting sound stage. The faint voices of two children wandering around the house, questioning some of the strange and bizarre events, is effectively creepy. For those curious to know, jump scares do occur here. When they occur, it is usually from a pairing of creepy visuals and loud noises, such as a scream. While I’m not fond of these kinds of jump scares, I’ll confess that they positively affected me several times.
Overall, kill the lights, be quiet and be prepared to hold your breath multiple times. Visually, this film is not only different and exciting but also wonderfully made with many strange shots, resulting in a haunting, nail-biting atmosphere. The visuals and audio track take the audience back to another time, from the opening credits to the static grain on the film, and crackles and pop on the audio track, which I loved. The pace is slow, which I will admit was a struggle for me and the runtime needed to be cut shorter. For many viewers, some scenes will be ambiguous and unclear, and this is kind of the magic of the film, as your mind is continually questioning what’s going on. If you were ever afraid of the dark as a young child, it’s time to turn off the lights again and go to the cinema. Skinamarink (2022) is Available in select Cinemas from January 13th.