Movie Review: While Kyle Edward Ball’s new movie “Skinamarink” has become a cult-sensation and an extremely successful financial hit, it’s still experimental – almost to a fault. “Skinamarink” is an excellent exploration of atmosphere and tone, but it’s absent of a story that viewers can latch on to.
Few movies have made a bigger splash in the opening month of 2023 than “Skinamarink.” Kyle Edward Ball’s feature length debut has been making waves throughout the continent with its unsettling and thrilling depictions of dreamlike events. A hefty amount of recent pieces have praised the film’s financial success as the independent darling has made over $1.7 million on a mere $15,000 budget. It’s rare to see independent movies garner this sort of financial and critical success, so I knew that I had to seek it out and watch it.
Horror is beginning to feel like a cesspool for small films like “Skinamarink” to become nationwide sensations. The genre continues to be one of the few that have non-intellectual properties still draw swaths of viewers to screenings. Just last year, “Terrifier 2” received massive crowd-funding and became a huge financial success as it played weeks and weeks over the Halloween season.
So between the extremely unique word-of-mouth (because while “Skinamarink” is doing wonders at the box office, I can’t say the critical reception has been overwhelmingly positive) and the lull on big blockbusters that January is usually absent of, I went into “Skinamarink” expecting a wild ride and a completely original vision from a filmmaker I wasn’t too familiar with.
And as an atmospheric gesture, “Skinamarink” is certainly one of a kind. It harkens back to cult classics like “Blair Witch Project” for its ability to always stay tied in with its viewers. Kyle Edward Ball has a keen sense of when to show his cards and when to linger on a shot for just a bit longer for tonal effect. There really aren’t many films that gain such a prestigious word-of-mouth campaign strictly off its atmosphere and energy.
Because while it is a unique journey from beginning to end, “Skinamarink” is nearly absent of any real story at all. The movie follows two young children, Kevin and Kaylee, as they search their home for their missing father. Not only is their dad missing, but the windows, doors, and various other household items near them are slowly disappearing too. The plot goes off the rails from there, and even typing it feels like clickbait because “Skinamarink” is far less interested in these details than it is its stylistic choices.
And frankly I admire many of the choices Kyle Edward Ball makes in terms of film grading and color styles in “Skinamarink.” Many are going to hate the movie and feel like it’s completely self-indulgent garbage, but there are many reasons to seek it out. Every ounce of “Skinamarink” is unsettling – from the children’s whispers to the long shots of objects being misplaced. It is a wholly original experience that I found occasionally rewarding, yet sometimes equally empty.
This is probably the best part of the review to insert how I actually saw this movie. I live in a town that generally only gets big studio releases in their opening weeks – stuff like Marvel, Avatar, and the occasional director’s project if the director has enough clout to his name. There’s also a smaller, second run theater that occasionally gets the indie darlings that I’m interested in seeing.
Unfortunately, unbeknownst to me until the movie actually began, this second run theater’s lights didn’t work properly and stayed up throughout the entirety of the movie. That’s right, I saw “Skinamarink” in a brightly lit auditorium. It’s not how I would suggest seeing a movie that aims to be an atmospheric mood-piece akin to “Paranormal Activity” and other found footage films. I feel this movie would be better suited to be watched alone at midnight in the darkest room you can find.
I imagine my setting for watching this has an impact on both my general thoughts on “Skinamarink” and the inevitable score that I’m about to give it, but I just didn’t find enough weight and material to warrant a rewatch in the future. I admire the ambition and style that Kyle Edward Ball achieves here, but this is a classic case of style over substance – while haunting and jarring, it also feels immensely bloated. At nearly two hours, I’m curious to see how “Skinamarink” would play if they trimmed it down to 90 minutes or less.
So while “Skinamarink” is a really neat genre introduction for Kyle Edward Ball, I can’t say that I would recommend this to a casual moviegoer, or even a casual horror moviegoer. It’s experimental and completely original, but it lacks the payoff that I think a viewer will be expecting given the runtime and how much of a slow-burn it is. With that being said, I’m still excited to see where Kyle Edward Ball goes from here because he’s making really unique and visually disturbing stuff.