When I was little, me and my younger brother would play a game where we’d stare at each other’s faces in the dark until we transformed into hideous monsters. The darkness, combined with our imaginations, would produce horrific hallucinatory results and we’d usually end up tapping out amidst screams while scrambling toward the light switch. Writer/director Kyle Edward Ball’s experimental feature debut SKINAMARINK is just such a mind screw and viewer satisfaction with it will likely rely on whatever personal bugaboos they bring to the table. I’ve written before (HERE) about my traumatic experience of being “accidentally” abandoned at a beach house when I was a mere four years old so Ball’s film felt uncomfortably tailor-made for exhuming my core neuorosis. The nightmare tale involves two young siblings who wake up in the middle of the night only to find their familiar home has turned into a HOUSE OF LEAVES-style ambiguous maze complete with disappearing windows and doors, Lego minefields,public domain cartoons and finally, a plastic telephone with a goofy smile that suggests it’s somehow responsible.
SKINAMARINK was not playing nearby so I had to go far outside my comfort zone to see it on a rainy night in a funky theater that seemed to have closed decades ago. It was quite the memorable experience, but I would probably decline undergoing it again. This is a film that feels more like a spell than anything else; it’s esoteric as all get out and cryptic on a level that seems more at home in an art gallery than a multiplex. I’m going to assume that many viewers will find this sneaky jaunt excruciatingly boring as the lion’s share of the flick consists of vague, off-kilter shots of the ceiling and long dives into a squirmy, grainy amorphous darkness. It’s quite like being hypnotized into a trance-like state and then being periodically slapped into sobriety by cymbal crashes. Again, it’s most definitely not for everyone and even though it certainly had my number, I’m not sure it was even for me. On the other hand, there are a couple of moments that rattled my psyche in ways that a more conventional horror film could never dream of and I can’t have anything but respect for that. Ultimately, SKINAMARINK is an original, singular horror experience but whether that experience is fascinating and frightening or absolutely aggravating may depend entirely on the beholder. I personally rather dug it as a challenging and uncomfortable walk down creepy memory lane.
Hmmm. Just saw that this is playing at the weird theater near me. I mean, the theater is just an old AMC mulitplex, but if you wanna see the obscure, weird stuff, live broadcasts and one-shot showings, then this is the theater.
Actually, I just looked again and SKINAMARINK will be another one-and-done showing. 8:30 pm tonight. Not sure if I can make it….
I appreciate your review, Uncle. A friend went and saw it last week and said it was terrible and the online comments I’ve seen have skewed strongly negative. I haven’t seen it but the trailer is one of the creepiest I’ve seen in years. A shame if the movie can’t live up to that. I’ll probably wait and catch it on Shudder. It looks like something that could be really unsettling if you catch it in the right mood and might work better from the “safety” of home
I def recommend seeing it in the weirdest movie theater possible! That’s exactly what I did. The theater was so backwards and rundown that they still had a poster for A Quiet Place 2!
I’m pretty sure a lot of people are going to hate this one, especially once it hits Shudder. I have a friend who found it absolutely terrifying though. I’m somewhere in the middle. It freaked me out in places but it was a frustrating watch over all for me. Glad I saw it though & it’s def interesting & original!
Lovecraft said that man’s greatest fear is of the unknown, and while I agree with that in general, my greatest fear is that of chaos. There is nothing that terrifies me more than the feeling of reality slipping away and being replaced by sheer, uncertain madness where things that were are no longer and that which are have become flowing, liquid uncertainties.
The best I can describe that feeling of chaos as is being lucid during a fever dream or pain-killer induced hallucination. Reality shifts and shatters and the only thing certain is the uncertainty. This movie seems to tap into that terror for me and the dark, grainy, brooding visuals remind me of confused, disjointed memories from early childhood filtered through the inky, murky blackness of a nightmare.
Very well said! This movie really does excel at disorienting the viewer. When it was over I had to verify with the person I had seen it with if they saw the same thing I did at the end. I had no idea if I was imagining it or not.
It brought back a memory of once I was on the phone with a friend (back in the landline days) when all the sudden there was a complete blackout and somehow phone lines got crossed and I could only hear gibberish from a stranger and then super loud stomping on the stairs outside my apartment. It was pitch black and all I could think was “This is it. They’re coming. You knew this day would come eventually” I felt total primitive terror and then very slowly I regained my footing on reality. It was just a random blackout but man, who knew I was always that close to being in complete chaos and terror?!
Unk, did you ever see the video for “Little Dark Age” by MGMT? It’s as 80’s as it gets and I feel like asking the lead singer, “Hey, do you like The Cure?” a la The Wedding Singer.
That sounds great. Need to follow up on MGMT more. I have the first album but that’s it. Of course 90 percent of the music I collect is ‘80s new wave & they’d fit right in
So it looks like SKINAMARINK has hit Shudder and yep, it’s dividing people. Let me know if any more of you guys see it and what you think! I keep thinking about t and that’s always a good thing. It def captures the spirit of Kindertrauma