Skinamarink. No, it’s not some kind of Venezuelan lizard but a high-concept horror film that was lauded for a great part of last year, particularly when it was leaked onto the internet. But it’s presented by the horror channel Shudder, so after being on that service, it’s now on Blu-ray.
Six-year-old Kaylee and four-year-old Kevin wake up in the darkness of their house to discover that their dad is missing, and they’re not sure about their mother either. As the kids try to figure out where they might have disappeared to, the doors and windows in the house start disappearing. Things appear on the ceiling and walls, and a strange voice echoes throughout the house. How will the two children get out of this one?
Skinamarink (named after the American children’s song ‘Skinnamarink’) is a difficult film to review. It’s both boring and exciting, excellent and frustrating, and has been described as a homage to the films of experimental filmmaker Stan Brakhage as well as Stanley Kubrick and David Lynch, and people have talked about it in the same vein as The Blair Witch Project. It’s had a strong effect on audiences and has been fairly divisive as well, which is understanding.
The film was shot digitally and was creatively lit with real objects, such as the omnipresent television and flashlights. This has the great effect of making you question what you’re seeing and looking in all sorts of places in the frame in case you miss anything, as with found footage movies like Paranormal Activity. This definitely gives it an eerie quality, although the decision to shoot the film in 2.39:1 makes it less claustrophobic than it could have been.
It’s innovatively shot from the point of view of the two children, which is unsettling at first before it becomes natural. The visual effects in the picture are very childlike as well, with things just appearing and disappearing in a flash with sound effects that could have come from Sesame Street or something similar, which pushes that the film is from the kids’ viewpoint. As with all horror films, the sound is very important, and it’s very well put together, with the scares coming from something aural, be it the voice of the monster or something moving or banging.
However, it’s also a frustrating watch. It’s not particularly enthralling, and while there are parts that are scary, they almost break you out of the monotony. The film feels like a short subject stretched to feature length, without the depth or substance to justify it.
There are many puzzling images, especially the ending, but while these certainly do underline the timeless idea of not knowing why something has happened = disturbing, it also feels like there’s no framework to try and work things out. This may be a feature, but it feels like a bug. There are also a few shots with LEGO bricks where they show an anachronistic piece; the infamous orange brick separator that comes with a lot of adult LEGO sets and which did not come out until 2011. This took me right out, shattering the suspense of disbelief.
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Acorn Media have brought Skinamarink to Blu-ray but with the nature of the film, the transfer is what it is. The disc includes an audio commentary by director Kyle Edward Ball and cinematographer Jamie McRae. The back cover also mentions that other special features are “subtitles” and “audio description”, which is taking the piss, really. I’m sure people who are hard of hearing and seeing are comforted that their needs are not being treated as standard.
Skinamarink is not the sensation it’s said to be, nor is it a bad film. It’s a very interesting attempt at things, which is always better than making boring rote crap, but it just feels like it needed to be developed a bit more.
Skinamarink is out now on Blu-ray from Acorn Media.