The Pitch: It’s a nightmare we’ve all experienced: We wake up in the middle of the night in our stuffed animal-filled beds, only to discover that our parents are nowhere to be found. In their stead is a monster that hides in the darkness, dwells under the beds, and hibernates in the dark corners of our closets.
Such is the premise of Skinamarink, the experimental feature-film horror debut by Canadian director Kyle Edward Ball that went viral online and has subsequently been hailed as one of the “scariest” films to have ever graced cinemas.
Skinamarink is an analog, lo-fi horror film that takes visual cues from The Blair Witch Project and online Creepypasta videos to tell the tale of four-year-old Kevin and six-year-old Kaylee, as they are struck with a bout of insomnia in a suddenly empty house. We never truly see their faces; instead, the film is assembled and spliced by “found footage”-type clips that prioritize hallowed negative space as its main subject of focus.
Taking place in 1995, the film incorporates grainy rushes that evokes the retro visuals of an abandoned home video. There is no obvious action, or even a hard climax; the slow-moving nature of the film is a character in itself, conjuring a kind of unsettling creepiness only experienced as you try to make sense of the unknown.
House of Skinamarink Pasta: Let’s cut to the chase: Skinamarink is not a straightforward horror movie. We are at eye-level with Kevin and Kaylee as they take in their dimly-lit surroundings, and we are with them as they stare into the darkness and try to make sense of the sinister, disembodied voice that calls out to them as the night progresses. We are treated to shoddy, gratuitous clips of the Legos and toys they play with, and the bright animations of their cartoons that contrast with the sudden gloom that has engulfed their lives.
Meanwhile, the house starts to take on a life of its own. Kevin discovers that the toilet keeps vanishing and reappearing, while doors and windows keep disappearing at random. Yes, there are the obvious visual allusions to The Blair Witch Project, but one of Skinamarink’s most discernible inspirations is Mark Z. Danielewski’s horror opus, House of Leaves.