As some of you may know, I like to reserve my horror movies for the month of October. However, because I’m a sucker for the found footage genre, and January expectedly provides so little potential in theatrical selections, I had to give this critically acclaimed oddity a chance. I’m glad I did, and I’m grateful my wife let me sneak out of the house while the little ones went to bed. It was just me and twelve other patrons in front of the screen. By the end of the movie, only eight of us stayed through the end.
Skinamarink is an exercise in visual and audible interpretation, viewer patience, and miniscule revelations. More an implied found footage trope, it is as if a four-year-old found a circa-90s RCA camcorder and recorded every nook and cranny of the house, including ominous shots into dark hallways.
Newbie Writer/Director Kyle Edward Ball embraces negative space of sound in which socks on carpet and children whispers command the ears, while the “crunch” of LEGO blocks being thrown into a pile and evening cartoons invade them. (Because there are so many quiet, white noise sequences, every candy wrapper, popcorn bite, and self-conscious stomach churn could be heard in the theatre.)
For me, this is cinematic minimalism at its finest, stripped-down form. It is only a shame the movie includes four jump scares that come across more as gimmicks than opportunities for the imagination. Every held shot down a hallway or under a bed keeps you more in suspense than the cheap carnival sound effects that make you fully aware you are watching a movie and not something “found.”
On a scale from 1 to 10 with 1 being the equivalent of watching paint dry and 10 being blasted into outer space, Skinamarink is a 2. Believe it or not, this is a compliment — at least for viewers like me who go for atmosphere before plot and image analysis before CGI intrusion.
Like grimy Begotten (1989) and eventless Vast of Night (2019), Skinamarink is devoid of any rewatch value but a compelling exercise nonetheless.
There’s that old saying, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
Skinamarink asks the question: “Ever wonder what goes on downstairs in your house while you sleep at night?”
While some of us imagine the intriguing possibilities to these questions, others walk out of the movie theatre.
***1/2 out of *****
Happy 2023, thank you for reading, and please let me know if you’ve seen this one!