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Review: Skinamarink (2023)

Skinamarink (2023)

Directed by: Kyle Edward Ball

Premise: Two children wake up in the middle of the night to find their parents are missing. They wander the house, illuminated by the glow of a television set, and mysterious phenomena occur around them.

What Works: Skinamarink is an interesting and ambitious experimental film. It doesn’t play in the manner of a typical narrative feature. The two children are not featured on screen. In fact, almost no one appears on screen in Skinamarink at all. Virtually the entire film consists of empty hallways and rooms with the children just off screen and we occasionally hear their voices. Skinamarink is not a plot-driven movie. There isn’t one. This is more of a mood piece. The filmmakers have set out to create a spooky cinematic experience and they’ve succeeded in doing that. This is an interesting study in how important style can be to create mood and there is a great degree of skill on display in the craftsmanship of this film. Skinamarink is set in 1995 and the whole film has an analog look with its grainy low-resolution image. That analog style has an organic creepiness that the clarity and polish of digital forms do not allow. The film is dimly lit but we can just make out the imagery. Most shots are static. Skinamarink works on our anticipation as we wait for something to happen. Although not much actually happens, at least not in terms of movement, those long takes with dim lighting turn mundane images of hallways into something quite spooky. Skinamarink also uses sound exceptionally well. The disembodied voices of the children are quite unsettling and the hum of the television fills the soundtrack. Everything in this movie is designed to put us on edge and the filmmakers do that effectively.

What Doesn’t: Knowing the official description of Skinamarink is helpful, and maybe essential, to understand what’s we’re looking at. It’s a rather impenetrable film that invites interpretation but Skinamarink is so removed from typical filmmaking norms that it is also frustrating. This is a 100-minute experiment and it mostly succeeds on its own terms but Skinamarink will also test the patience of many viewers. It requires the audience to commit to the conceit. Because of that, Skinamarink is ideally seen in a movie theater because that presentation will block out other distractions. That level of concentration is required to really absorb the experience that the filmmakers have created. Short of a proper theatrical screening, Skinamarink should probably be viewed on a large screen with a good sound system or perhaps with headphones. A more passive or distracted presentation will degrade the viewing experience.

Disc extras: Commentary track.

Bottom Line: Skinamarink is bound to divide audiences. For viewers who are willing to go along with it, Skinamarink is a fascinating exercise in style and technique and there’s just enough happening here to suggest a puzzle to be solved. But this film is also going to alienate a lot of viewers who will be understandably frustrated by it.

Episode: #971 (October 29, 2023)