Reviewing “Skinamarink,” a directorial debut

The unique horror experience that isn’t necessarily for everyone


Skylar Savarin

“Skinamarink” is a 2022 experimental horror film from filmmaker Kyle Edward Ball, loosely inspired by his short film “Heck.” The film follows two young children, Kevin and Kaylee, who wake up one night to discover that their father is nowhere to be found and that random objects in the house are mysteriously vanishing.

This is a strange film to discuss, and I’m genuinely surprised that it’s as popular as it is. After initially premiering at festivals last year, a technical issue caused a copy of the film to be leaked online. In turn, “Skinamarink” received attention from a lot of users on social media, probably due to its unique presentation in comparison to other horror films.

Its unconventional choices are a big part of why the film has polarized both critics and audiences. While some have stated that the film draws heavily on childhood fears, others found the film’s experimental nature to be boring and/or pretentious. After finally watching the movie, I can safely say I am somewhere in the middle if slightly more on the positive side. I think this movie is well-directed with some great moments but is also quite dull at points.

In order to fully explain my thoughts on this film, I’ll have to try and describe the overall presentation. It should be noted that the film’s lighting and music are all diegetic, meaning that they are all occurring within the film’s universe. The lighting comes from either the lights in the house or from the downstairs TV that is almost constantly playing public-domain cartoons. The video has a layer of film grain to it, and the entire audio track has a staticky sound. In terms of the cinematography, we are rarely shown the two main characters fully in frame, and we never see anybody’s face in the movie, not even the main characters. These are a few of the movie’s many presentation choices that make it more unique than other, more conventionally shot horror films with larger theatrical releases.

These choices are, without a doubt, both the film’s biggest strength and one of its greatest downfalls.

There are plenty of moments where Ball’s style is surprisingly effective. As soon as the film opened, I felt a strange sense of dread. I wasn’t yet being shown anything particularly scary, but I still had chills running down my spine. While the movie is eerier than outright fear-inducing, it still manages to be scarier than a large number of mainstream horror films. Ball’s intent was to recreate childhood fears and nightmares, and to his credit, “Skinamarink” did occasionally make me feel like a scared child. The film also has some surprisingly horrifying moments, and I remember my jaw dropping at two particularly disturbing scenes. Not only are these sequences successful because of the presentation, but I also found them to have some pretty interesting and hypothetically scary ideas at play.

Unfortunately, I found “Skinamarink” to be quite boring for the majority of its 100-minute runtime. It seems to me like this would have been more effective as a short film, which Ball has already done and which seems to be his specialty. He has a YouTube channel called Bitesized Nightmares, in which viewers comment on descriptions of nightmares and Ball uploads reenactments of said descriptions. One of these was the 30-minute short “Heck,” which was essentially Ball’s chance to show that he could make a feature-length film with such a unique concept and presentation. Unfortunately, I think that Ball ends up proving the exact opposite with “Skinamarink.” The film has some great moments that genuinely blew me away, and it was an occasionally harrowing experience. However, I don’t think I should be giving a movie that much credit when I was only invested for about half of it.

All in all, “Skinamarink” is a pretty good horror movie, even if I didn’t exactly make it sound like one. Ball clearly had a lot of fun with this film, and there’s a strong level of passion that is hard to ignore, even if you found this film to be boring and/or pretentious. But in spite of its well-done technical elements, the unnerving atmosphere and some truly fantastic scenes, I just didn’t feel like the runtime and pacing really justified themselves. Regardless, I would still recommend that people give the film a watch — it’s currently on the streaming services Shudder and AMC+, and I would say that the best way to watch it is in a dark room with headphones on. You may hate the movie, you may love it or you may be very much in the middle like I am, but I still think that it’s worth the experience.

RATING: 6/10