In Skinamarink, the debut feature from promising filmmaker Kyle Edward Ball, audiences are taken on a harrowing journey into the depths of childhood terror. This atmospheric horror film has garnered high praise within the genre community, and deservedly so. However, its avant-garde approach to storytelling and unconventional filmmaking style may hinder its broader appeal.
The narrative centers around two young children who find themselves trapped in their own home; a space that becomes increasingly claustrophobic as doors and windows inexplicably vanish. As their father, too, mysteriously disappears, the world around them seems to close in, intensifying their isolation and helplessness. Skinamarink masterfully captures the experience of being a young child in an incomprehensible world, where something is amiss but the means to articulate it are lacking.
The film’s visual language is as disorienting as the children’s reality. Through a myriad of angles and compositions, Ball deliberately keeps the mystery just out of reach, forever teasing the audience. The absence of traditional horror beats punctuated with jump scares allows the creeping unease to permeate every frame, with the bizzaro oppressive atmosphere that the children are living in lingering long after the credits roll.
In watching Skinarmarink you can’t ignore the level of confidence and understanding of filmmaking exhibited by Ball in his debut feature. It showcases an uncommon maturity and command over the medium. From the meticulously crafted shots to the carefully layered sound design, every element contributes to the film’s unsettling tone. It is a testament to Ball’s talent that he’s able to sustain this tension throughout the entire (and slightly over-long) runtime, creating an experience that leaves an indelible mark on the viewer.
Skinamarink, however, is not a film for those seeking immediate gratification or conventional storytelling. To call it slow-paced would be an understatement, as it deliberately eschews traditional narrative beats. The film instead is more concerned with the perpetual air of creeping dread than with providing a satisfying resolution. It challenges the viewer to confront the anxieties and uncertainties of childhood, forcing them to grapple with their own discomfort and fears.
While Skinamarink may not find a wide audience due to its unconventional style, it is undoubtedly a remarkable piece of cinema for those willing to embrace its idiosyncrasies. It defies expectations and defies categorisation, standing as a testament to the power of atmospheric filmmaking. It is a haunting exploration of childhood dread, a reminder of the vulnerability and confusion inherent in youth.
Skinamarink is out now on Blu-ray, DVD and digital. Win a copy on Blu-ray with our latest competition.