Skinamarink is Nothing More Than a Curiosity

Credit IFC Midnight

Written By Hayden Claborn, Writer

Rarely do we see a film go viral quite like Skinamarink, the new horror sensation from Canadian indie filmmaker Kyle Edward Bell. The film had its premiere at the 26th Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal, Canada on July 25th, 2022. In the age of COVID, many film festivals offer at-home options which led to Skinamarink leaking online. This became a blessing in disguise as it quickly invaded sites like YouTube and TikTok causing people, particularly those in Gen Z, to seek out the easily available torrent. It grabbed the title of “scariest film in years” and quickly built up hype. Now this $15,000 indie movie is getting distributed by IFC Midnight and horror giant Shudder. I saw it in theaters back in January where it grossed two million dollars. 

The film takes place in 1995 (which proves to be irrelevant) and is vaguely about two kids, Kaylee (Dali Rose Tetreault) and Kevin (Lucas Paul), waking up in the middle of the night and finding that all the windows and doors in their house have disappeared, along with their parents. This movie isn’t really about plot, as you never once see the kids’ faces, only fractions of limbs existing on the edge of the frame. Presented with a VHS aesthetic, each shot is of a corner wall. Everything is dimly lit; the only light source is a television playing old cartoons. 

I’ll rip the Band-Aid off early: I don’t think Skinamarink is very good. It feels like baby’s first experimental horror film. At a hundred minutes long, the film quickly becomes repetitive and boring. The reason why it’s caught on with Gen Z so much is that it falls in the tradition of Creepypasta and Analog Horror, relying on the aesthetics of 20th century television and cryptic messages to tell its story. On one level Kyle Edward Bell does mimic this combination of nostalgia and horror, but the most effective moments are when the film falls into more traditional horror tropes. The last twenty minutes of the film become a tale of the supernatural; this is the film at its scariest. 

What often bothers me about Analog Horror is how the creators prioritize the mythos over telling an effective scary story. They lack any human element which is often the best thing horror movies have. In effect, these stories occupy the realm of ARGs (Alternate Reality Games) than traditional storytelling. The appeal of Kris Struab’s hit YouTube series “Local58” is going on Reddit and trying to figure out what it all means. And while I appreciate the craft that goes into creating these works, I find them boring. 

Skinamarink is going to have a devoted internet following who take it upon themselves to unlock the true meaning behind the film; though when you get down to it the story is annoyingly simple. In some ways, it’s just a garbled version of Coraline with it’s nightmarish mirrored reality and a Paranormal Activity movie with it’s supernatural tropes near the end. Bell is talented at conjuring atmosphere and clearly knows what he’s doing, but I couldn’t help but find the whole affair lacking in depth. Instead of using surrealism to tell a story he’s using it to obfuscate one while also begging for it to be analyzed. 

If you’ve noticed I haven’t discussed much of the content of Skinamarink, it’s because it all blends together. A few images from the film latched onto my brain: a Barbie doll hanging from the ceiling and a collection of toys stuck together, both of which happen to be the shots most frequently used in the marketing. Go figure. 

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