Skinamarink (2022) poster

Skinamarink (2022)


Canada. 2022.


Director/Screenplay – Kyle Edward Ball, Photography – Jamie McRae. Production Company – Ero Picture Company.


Lucas Paul (Kevin), Dali Rose Tetreault (Kaylee), Ross Paul (Dad), Jamie Hill (Mom)


It is 1995. Two children, Kevin and Kaylee, awake in the night to find the house empty and their parents missing. The door to the house is now a blank wall. All around them, mysterious things are occurring – furniture and their toys are attached to the roof and walls, or move around of their own accord. The voices of their parents whisper to them to do things.

Skinamarink was a directorial debut for Canadian director Kyle Edward Ball. Prior to this, Ball operated the YouTube channel Bitesized Nightmares where he would make short films of around 3-6 minutes long based on nightmares that viewers would submit. Ball had previously made the basics of Skinamarink as the 28-minute short film Heck (2020). Skinamarink appeared at various film festivals in 2022 and became an unexpected viral hit after a glitch in one of the online screeners allowed the film to be downloaded, whereupon it was quickly pirated and gained word of mouth.

Skinamarink holds your attention from the moment it opens. The photography has an unusualness to it. Shots are much longer than customary in a film – often ones just looking at a wall, the stairs or Lego blocks strewn across the floor for long moments where nothing happens. Often shots will take place from an odd angle – the camera placed on the floor looking up at the shelf of a wardrobe, or of the ceiling as someone walks along a hall. There is no natural lighting levels – the entire film is shot either by the light from the tv or from the children holding torches. Everything gives the impression that it has been printed on grainy film stock.

More disconcertingly, while there are credited actors on the film, we never actually see any of them. Well we do sort of but only in shots from behind their backs, where the frame cuts their head off, or of feet walking obscured by furniture. There are a couple of scenes of either parent getting up out of bed where the photography is so dark and murky that nothing is clear. We get one brief shot where we see young Lucas Paul’s face half turned and another murky, out-of-focus shot where Dali Rose Tetreault appears without her mouth, but that is the most we get in terms of the facial features of any of the cast.

Young Lucas Paul in the house in Skinamarink (2022)
Young Lucas Paul in the house

Most of the film has the feel of being something that I could achieve at home by waking up at night and trying to navigate the house with my cellphone light at the same time as the camera has been accidentally left on video record. All of that said, the super-low tech look achieves something incredible spooky. This is particularly the case when it comes to the items of displaced furniture – a chair fixed to the ceiling, or Lego bricks, fluffy toys and a videocassette hanging on the wall – or doors that mysteriously disappear and reappear, or items like a toilet and trash bin that move of their own accord.

That’s not to mention the disembodied voices that come. These seem to either be at the level of a whisper or seem to come from a distance as though they have been recorded through an intercom or echoing down a hall. Rather unnerving is when the voices start suggesting things like “Put the knife in your eye” or (referring to the sister) “She said she wanted her mom and dad. So I took away her mouth.” At one point, the cryptic phrases ‘572 Days’ appears on screen but it is not clear what this refers to – the length of time the children have been in the house? Towards the end, an indistinct, out of focus shape that may be a face appears with quite unnerving effect as the boy demands to know what it is but receives no answers. There is no real narrative or plot to anything that occur, let alone explanations.

The slow, often static shots and murky processing without accompanying soundtrack reminds of Paranormal Activity (2007). What struck me about watching Paranormal Activity theatrically back in 2009 was how non-commercial and very different to the rest of the multiplex fare it was cinematographically – slow, static shots from a security camera where often nothing occurs and the audience was constantly scanning the frame to see what might happen. There is the same thing at play here. The other film I kept being reminded somewhat was Stalker (1979) and its sense of everyday spaces turned into alien topographies where the inexplicable happens.

Trailer here

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