'​Skinamarink' Is the Stuff of Nightmares

Directed by Kyle Edward Ball

Starring Lucas Paul, Dali Rose Tetreault, Ross Paul, Jaime Hill

BY Rachel HoPublished Jan 10, 2022

It's usually a wonderful thing when a movie can capture your imagination. And it's usually positively lovely if a film can transport you back to your childhood — not necessarily with the story, but through the atmosphere and vibe. In the best way possible, these sentiments do not apply to Skinamarink, a movie that takes us back to our childhood nightmares.

The film, Canadian filmmaker Kyle Edward Ball's directorial debut, follows four-year-old Kevin (Lucas Paul) and six-year-old Kaylee (Dali Rose Tetreault) one evening. Up late at night, Kevin goes downstairs to watch old cartoons with Kaylee. Neither child is sure where their dad (Ross Paul) is — they just hope that he hasn't gone away like mom (Jaime Hill) did. As the evening progresses, Kevin notices that all of the windows and doors in the house have gone missing. When he hears some strange noises upstairs, he bravely investigates, finding himself in the middle of a sensory nightmare.

Much like in a real dream, Skinamarink's storyline doesn't make a lot of sense. A narrative does exist and can be followed, but it's intentionally disjointed and plays out almost as separate vignettes. Rather than the plot, the terror of the film comes from a familiar dread that paints the entire film.

The film was shot digitally and graded to give life to grain that swims across the screen, reminiscent of VHS tapes — another way that Ball taps into the nostalgia of childhood for those of a certain age. The retro finishing of scenes, especially those in the dark, is done in such a way as to trick the brain into believing a creature may be lurking in the shadows. Mixed in with some pretty great sound design, the tension is raised to a boiling point.

One of the most interesting aspects of the film are the camera angles Ball chooses to use. Rather than showing audiences the entire room or house, we're only given snippets, whether it's the corner of a lamp, the bottom of the couch, or a close-up on Kevin and Kaylee's toys on the floor. It feels very experimental in nature, and it goes a long way in recreating how we recall our dreams and also how children perceive the world. 

All these storytelling techniques combine to build a world that feels recognizable yet foreign. Skinamarink taps into our childhood nightmares, when the nonsensical made sense and the dark was a living, breathing organism to be feared. 

For a first-time filmmaker (or perhaps because he's a first-time filmmaker), Ball is incredibly bold. He isn't afraid to make audiences wait, clearly shown by the first 30 minutes, in which not much happens. He tests the patience of his viewers, but then rewards them by building up the tension to an almost unbearable point. There are some slow moments in the film that feel unnecessarily drawn out, but, when taking in the film as a whole, it's clear Ball guides his audience through the ebbs and flows with commanding purpose.

Ball has created something truly unique and exciting for horror fans and film fans alike. It's been awhile since I've been this scared while watching a movie, and it's not even because of jump scares or the boogeyman. It's the disarming and unsettling feeling Ball creates, and the anxiety that he builds that never quite dissipates. Skinamarink's featured creature is just as much your mind as anything Ball actually lets us see, and that's the brilliance of it.
(ERO Picture Company)

Latest Coverage