When I first watched this film, I was horrified. For around half of it, I watched “Skinamarink” (2022) through my fingers and from behind my girlfriend’s shoulder for another quarter of it. The last 20 minutes of the film were excruciating. I practically begged for it to end as horrific images and sounds assaulted my senses.
After a sleepless night, I rushed to buy tickets to see it again — this time with my brother. We both recently got into a genre called “analog horror” and this was right up his alley. My brother, a 31-year-old man who chuckles at even the most disturbing modern horror films, let out a sigh of relief when “Skinamarink” ended.
I love horror films. I live and breathe horror — often going out of my way to find the next big thriller. The only other time I have literally covered my eyes while watching a movie before this was the first time I watched a horror film when I was 11 years old.
For “Skinamarink,” it’s best if you go in blind. I think that for this film especially, it’s important to have a sense of discovery. Don’t look at plot synopses, or at Letterboxd reviews, don’t look at anything — not even the rest of this review.
But if what I have said already about the film does not convince you of how important it is for horror fans to see this, keep reading.
The debut feature-length film of Canadian director Kyle Edward Ball, “Skinamarink” is an experimental horror film following two children — Kevin, played by Lucas Paul, and Kaylee, played by Dali Rose Tetreault — after their parents, played by Jaime Hill and Ross Paul, disappear inexplicably along with their house’s doors and windows.
When I say “experimental horror,” I mean it. The film is shot the opposite of traditionally. While other horror films follow the actions of the main characters directly, “Skinamarink” follows them indirectly, often using seemingly random shots of the house in which the film takes place to advance the plot.
For this reason, the film is hard to follow. “Skinamarink” does not hold the audience’s hand, and it’s much better off because of that. If you are not paying extremely close attention, you will get lost. The audience is led to decipher what is going on in the film, often through audio cues and shadows. “Skinamarink” is a puzzle for the theater to solve, and the more focused they become on the puzzle, the harder the horror hits. You are sucked into the film’s events, watching for every movement, looking in every shadow until you find something — and at that moment, you will have made a terrifying discovery.
But because you are so focused, when a jump scare happens, however rare, it really works. I audibly yelped at a specific jump scare in the film. I don’t think I have ever done that, and yes, it was super embarrassing.
The film does not rely on jump scares, which I admire in a horror film, especially when it can scare me without them. That is partially because of its presentation. It has the feel of an old VHS tape, even though it is not a found-footage film. Rather than something out of “The Blair Witch Project,” it feels like the videotape from “The Ring.” It’s a cursed-feeling film about children practically being tortured by an unknown force, and that is enough to make me uneasy.
However, I do not think “Skinamarink” will work for everyone, and it might not work in every environment. Both times I watched this film, it was basically in perfect conditions. The theaters were utterly silent — except for when I screamed that one time — and I sat front and center both times.
Apart from a limited theater release, this film was released exclusively on Shudder — a streaming service dedicated to horror. I’m not sure if the film will have the same effect on a smaller screen where you can pause at any time, but there is a solution, and it might make the experience better than in theaters.
If you want an interesting horror experience, watch it completely in the dark with whatever headphones you have. If you can help it, do not pause the movie, no matter what is happening on screen. For a little extra spice, if you have a closet or something in your room, keep it open — I guarantee you will want to get up and close it within the first 30 minutes.
Bottom line, this is one of the best horror experiences I’ve ever had, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants a new kind of horror experience.
Final Score: 10/10