Skinamarink, The Uncanny, and Slow Cinema

It’s been some time, maybe since The Blair Witch Project, that a horror movie has been debated as much as the indie feature Skinamarink, directed by Kyle Edward Ball. After leaking at Fantasia Festival last year, the movie became a viral sensation. Tik Tok users especially took to the platform to talk about how much the $19,000 debut freaked them out. Since its release in theaters recently, it’s also drawn pushback. Just read the user comments on IMDB or Twitter. Go on YouTube and type in the film. You’ll see plenty of videos by social media gurus claiming they either love or hate the film and all of their reasons why.

Like Blair Witch, Skinamarink became a sensation largely through word of mouth and the internet. No, there isn’t a website for the film with missing person posters, but it’s generated the same sort of buzz and harnessed the power of the web much in the same way as the influential 1999 found footage feature, which was also shot for little to no money.

I saw Skinamarink during its initial theatrical release a few weeks ago, before it expanded to more theaters, and I do believe this movie should be watched at home, either on a laptop or flatscreen, just before bed. While I’m an advocate for movie theaters, I don’t think this movie is best seen that way. What it does well is play up childhood nightmares and anxieties, namely the fear of losing one’s parents. There are familiar images here, including scattered Legos, a fuzzy TV, and a plastic telephone. Yet, it’s how Ball uses these images that make the film effective, at least for me and some other viewers. It all goes back to Freud’s theory of The Uncanny and making the familiar suddenly haunting. Heck, even a plastic telephone becomes downright terrifying here.

I have many more thoughts on this film, including the way it puts you in a child’s perspective. To read more of my take on this film, click here to access my piece on it for Signal Horizon. In the meantime, Skinamarink is still paying in some theaters, and it’s now streaming on Shudder. I advise simply surrendering to the experience that is this film without expecting any clear narrative.

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