plot Summary: Set in 1995, two children wake up in the middle of the night to find their father is missing, and all the windows and doors in their home have vanished. Whilst they wait for his return, they find themselves watching cartoons and playing as kids do. However, something evil is lurking within the house, waiting to strike.
The title skinarink sounds strange, but doing a little homework, it actually is taken from lyrics from a song for Sharon, Lois & Bram’s “Elephant Show.” The bitter irony of naming a horror movie after a whimsical child’s song sets the stage for director Kyle Edward Ball’s grim and visually striking film. I will say from the outset that this is a purely experimental horror film. Although, after having seen many movies that could fit that description, skinarink at least has a narrative flow that is, for the most part, very easy to understand and follow. Where the movie might lose a lot of fans is not the story (which is very minimal), but rather in how the narrative is told visually.
Ball does a really interesting thing whereby staying on static (or mostly static) shots, then letting the scene play out via mainly sound that provides enough context clues to keep us informed. As the movie opens up and expands, so do the shots. This makes for a very unnerving and completely strange storytelling device, but I also suspect it was a way of working around not having the children on camera a lot. Therefore, it saved on the headache of working around the limited number of hours a child is allowed to work. I admit this aspect is very jarring as it’s so limiting from a filmmaking standpoint. However, I found myself not only getting used to it but finding it to be what helps it stand out as a deconstructed way of presenting storytelling in film. For many fans, it will be a bridge too far. I found it to be a haunting and strange experience but, also, thanks to its effective and unsettling visual cues, it is maybe one of the purest kinder-horror film ever made.
Dark spaces, strange noises and low-pitched dialogue all help reinforce this unecapable nightmare-scape that we the audience are stuck in. These are all effective ways in which it manages to boil down its core theme which is being young, helpless and afraid in a way that feels palpable and wholly satisfying. For example, scenes of the kids playing with toys and watching television take on a much darker tone as there is always a specter of something evil, seemingly not far away.
Cinematographer Jamie McRae (a director as well) does a fantastic job here. There really are some visually striking shot compositions that truly impressed me a lot. This is so successful in its surreal, otherworldly nature that I would easily compare this to the early short films directed by David Lynch. Further giving this unsettling feeling is the low-fi 16mm visual aesthetic, which is utilized brilliantly throughout. Ball also uses childhood cartoons playing on-and-off throughout, all of which are of course off-putting, but also feels organic to the theme. Sometimes we don’t see the cartoon playing, only hearing it, which I think is equally off-putting.
As much as I enjoyed the movie, I will say that it was overly long. While I don’t think this would be quite right as an outright short film, I do think cutting maybe twenty minutes would have tightened up the pace more. The movie won’t be for every horror fan, and that’s alright. But, for the more adventurous horror lovers, skinarink it’s fantastic!
skinarink had its World Premiere at the 2022 Fantasia International Film Festival.
Director: Kyle Ball
Cast: Jaime Hill, Lucas Paul, Ross Paul, Dali Rose Tetreault