Skinamarink (2023)

**Mild Spoilers Included in Review**

One of the exciting things about intelligent horror is that it can often inspire a lot of debate and interpretations among the fan base. They’re fun to read, and will be with “Skinamarink” now in the annals of the horror film. Like most modern horror, “Skinamarink” built its reputation going viral on the internet with its word of mouth as a terrifying movie. I’m happy to say that “Skinamarink” is quite terrifying but not in the ways you might think.

After a bad accident, children Kevin and Kaylee awaken to a dark house and realize that their father is nowhere to be found. Even worse, their doors and windows have all disappeared. As they wile their hours away, they realize that something is lurking in the shadows of their house, and their only refuge may be their flickering television. Sure, “Skinamarink” is a scary film, and one that beautifully taps in to the popularity of slow burn analog horror, but the film is about so much more than dark corners and long hallways. “Skinamarink” excels as a simple lo-fi indie horror title that has minimal settings and a simple horror tale, but deep within the seams it’s rich with complex overtones and narrative dimensions.

Director Kyle Edward Ball creates a fever dream of a horror movie, one that has no adherence to reality. He doesn’t respect the dimensions of the house the film is set in, acknowledging how as kids our environments can be safe one moment and horrifying the next. Implementing amazing photography and shadows and darkness as devices to build suspense, “Skinamarink” puts us in an uneasy spot watching two children helpless to the whims of a horrifying monster lurking at every turn. Kyle Edward Ball doesn’t deliver a terrifying narrative that gives us every detail bluntly. He does a lot to build up to the big bang, and only allows us as much knowledge of what’s happening around these two children as he does them.

Much of “Skinamarink” revolves around the uneasy nature of survival these two children inhabit, and whether or not they’re doomed from the jump. The themes that the film visits are often uneasy and disturbing, as while the movie is essentially what is purports to be, it also explores deeper subtexts. Subtexts that is so much scarier than an inexplicable monster hiding in the dark. My interpretation isn’t all too different from the common consensus. “Skinamarink” is an allegory for child abuse and neglect. It’s a disturbing story of two children left to be fed to the horrors of the outside world thanks to adults that are barely visible in their lives. The constant droning of cartoons and the rattle of Legos is the only salvation these two have from the harshness of familial dysfunction and domestic violence.

They do everything they can to keep out of the darkness with their innocent distractions, but eventually the darkness overcomes them to where they have to face it. And likely be consumed. Some audiences might bulk at the film’s intentional pacing and lack of traditional narrative, but Kyle Edward Ball relies heavily on setting and props to tell a visual story that can help us assemble what might be happening. No matter how you interpret it though, it’s a terrific, disturbing and uncomfortable horror entry, and one of the early gems of 2023.

In Theaters January 13th from IFC Midnight. Coming Soon to Shudder Streaming Service.