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The low-budget Canadian horror film Skinamarink is amazing. But lower your expectations

examination skinamarink presents a unique challenge that doesn’t come up often – and not because I spent parts of it too scared to actually look at the screen.

For Edmonton director Kyle Edward Ball’s tight budget skinamarink, it’s not the proof, it’s the problem in the pudding. The small experimental horror film gained an accidental cult following after being pirated, then the clips went viral online. But all is not as it seems.

The problem with the verification skinamarink is what you expect not what you will get; An uncontrolled advertising campaign has misrepresented a deeply and intentionally strange film. While it’s cemented its place as one of my favorite releases of 2023, I almost feel like I’d have a better chance of playing Russian roulette with a fully loaded gun than finding someone recommending it to someone who would actually enjoy it would.

Embarrassing when talking about something as deep and nuanced as skinamarinkthe best way I can think of to interpret it is through The office. In a Halloween episode, local creep Gabe brings a film from the “Cinema of Unrest” – a seemingly disjointed clip show of black-and-white images, including a blood-filled cake, a melting Barbie and another cast member’s grandmother.

HEAR | Kyle Edward Ball on making Skinamarink:

Q20:49Edmonton director Kyle Edward Ball isn’t afraid to bring your worst nightmare to life

Edmonton director Kyle Edward Ball makes his feature film debut with the film Skinamarink. He tells us the inspiration behind his horror film and how he uses sound to evoke the feeling of a nightmare.

Annoyed and angry, someone asks “What’s wrong?” Another responds, just as irritated: “There is no story!”

With a smug smile, Gabe explains, “Perhaps the filmmaker has realized that even narratives are comforting.”

While that angry, confused reaction is part of the potential problem skinamarinkto say that it has no history is not true.

taken at face value, skinamarink is about a spook. A four-year-old boy and his sister spend the night in their dimly lit house as their father disappears, their mother fades in and out, and something dark and malevolent makes the doors and windows of the house disappear while whispering fierce commands in the shadows.

All of this plays out through intentionally low-quality footage, with the camera being aimed at toys or the ground more often than real people. Talking to CBC QBell explained that an intentional concept of the film is to only have its characters on-screen for 10 minutes and 15 seconds of the film’s 100-minute runtime.

CLOCK | Skinamarink Trailer:

The director developed the approach of “implying action rather than actually showing it” via a YouTube channel he started years ago, Bitsized Nightmares. It allowed him to simultaneously stoke fear by largely hiding the monster, challenging his fans with ambiguous, open storylines, and keeping his budget low.

“I think a lot of filmmakers assume that audiences aren’t that adventurous or even that smart,” Bell said. “And I’ve always found that’s not the case. As if audiences would be far more willing to see something experimental and far more intelligent than many… overbearing filmmakers would give them credit for.”

For the film’s early run, that proved to be the case. The technique allowed him to limit the film’s spending to a staggering $15,000; it has grossed around $1.5 million to date — and a litany of interpretations of what the film is Yes, really Above.

Without going into depth, these theories range from child abuse to parental neglect to characters who were dead the whole time. Coma dreams, demons and time travel are all on the table for what skinamarink is actually about.

It’s an innovative way of telling a story that’s incredibly compelling to a certain subset of the population. Instead of the straight-forward narrative style that’s prevalent in virtually every media format around the world, it intentionally confuses you.

There are overarching comparisons with those of Mark Danielewski house of leavesan “ergodic” novel that tells the story of a house that’s impossibly larger inside than outside – through multiple viewpoints that are simultaneously upside down and diagonally on its side.

It also reflects horror mystery games like Amnesia: A machine for pigs, layers of fear, and Blair witch – chilling examples that use the vehicle of video games to rework how we gather information about situations and build an understanding of what happened.

Rather than presenting a story in a linear format, or even just offering information in an intuitively meaningful way, these games reward players who take pleasure in wandering for hours through mostly deserted, largely silent landscapes – and uncovering disjointed clues in any order randomized find, and be struck with sudden fear by unexpected and rare jump scares.

Experimental and polarizing

While this framework absolutely works for those interested in it, it doesn’t work for the general audience. After the then-unknown film was leaked along with the full schedule of a 2022 European horror festival, TikTok users circulated contextless clips to simply propagate how terrifying it was. It was grassroots growth that drove social media dynamics around more traditional real estate such as M3GAN and The incantation – hailing a small experimental film as the scariest new movie of 2023.

Soon, people who wouldn’t otherwise be digging through the deepest and darkest reaches of niche horror lists saw the organic ad campaign and rave reviews and decided to give it a try. As its popularity grew exponentially and the film, designed for a specific audience, found itself in the melee of mainstream consumption, negative reactions began to pour in.

“Yes, it’s true, if you have ten minutes of silence and then out of nowhere you play an extremely loud, piercing sound, I get startled,” reads a casual review from one critic Patrick William. “Amazing discovery there.”

but skinamarinkThe polarizing nature of isn’t a bad thing – this movie wasn’t meant to satisfy the tastes of an entire populace. Judging it as “bad” because it’s not universally palatable feels incredibly unfair.

This, combined with a series of press interviews by Bell, set the film up for a wave of disappointments. But for fans, the film does more than succeed in its own right: it’s a beautiful and terrifying experience that draws you in and mesmerizes you. If haunted was Really, experiencing the violent hostility of Bell’s paranormal presence might be the most realistic representation of what a haunting would actually feel like.

skinamarink is a quiet (though sometimes loud) film from a creator who never aimed for multiplex success, thrown through a now seemingly requisite social media wrestler it wasn’t built for. An overwhelmingly negative reaction when the film releases for streaming on Shudder on Feb. 2 could deter the next experimental approach — just when the genre could use an infusion of creativity.

Regarding a simple review skinamarink comes on my list The Painted Bird, spring breakers and Motorama than films I’m absolutely obsessed with – and that makes me feel almost culpably remiss in recommending them.


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