Dir. Kyle Edward Balls
Reviewer. Martyn Wakefield
Warning: SKINAMARINK is evil. If Mary Whitehouse was about right now, she'd have this on top of the banned list. A film so nauseating and nerve-shredding that it's easy to see why it's cited as the scariest movie of the year already.
Plot wise all you need to know is that two kids awake to find their father missing, furthermore the house becomes a parasitic nightmare wound them taking away doors and windows to leave the children spending the night(s) traipsing around trying to survive. What's more is that there's also someone, or something, else in the house.
The criticism for SKINAMARINK and why it will not be for everyone, is that it's slow, it's very slow, and the reluctance to show anything other than part framed shots and many still-like scenes that frankly, will have anyone wanting to turn off by the 45 minute mark. If you cut the first 35 minutes, you wouldn't lose anything, what's worse is that the film is only 1 hour and 40 minutes long resulting in what could have been a brilliant short, into a patience testing feature.
Despite Kyle Edward Balls inventive yet unusual techniques to hide budget constraints, SKINAMARINK has more in common with POLTERGEIST and INSIDIOUS in a way that using kids highlights a fear in innocence. Playing heavily on this, the cries, the violence, the bewildered and worried thoughts of the kids transcends the screen. There are more images of toys and innocent cartoons than of the actors and in doing so, creates a more first person horror experience. Lego, barbies and the infamous Fisher-Price Chatter Telephone are now embedded as the stuff of nightmares. The latter traumatising parents forever as their children happily indulge in TOY STORY 3. This ability to make the innocent so menacing is what puts SKINAMARINK above the usual horror tropes and by giving screentime to the objects, it allows a sense of familiarity and normalness to build, and tears it down in the final third.
Filmed with an analogue lens, inaudible dialogue, spontaneous subtitles and off focus shots, this is not a film, it's a nightmare.
The element of the film that will alienate many, and rightly so, is that for 45 minutes it's just practically a slow slide show. If you switch off before the hour mark it's easy to understand why, but picking up where you left off would be rewarding. The slow tension rise builds and builds but as nothing happens it fizzles out long before it needs to be there and a film with such a thin plot, doesn't need world building, there's no need to develop characters when this is essentially a one scene film. The biggest irony is that while the film takes a very experimental lens with cinematography and sound engineering, it's faithfulness to stick to familiar film structure is where it falls apart
Once things take a turn though, the film goes full evil, treating the kids to some of the harshest levels of horror ever seen in film. The demonic presence is one of, if not the, darkest and most remorseless in cinematic history, pulling no stops and having a control over these children is pure fear. There are scenes that will remain with you long after the film has finished but more importantly, despite being a more experimental type film in the branch of Lynch, SKINAMARINK just loses some of the tension it creates by starting a little slower, racing to the finish line with a last minute boost to make it to the podium, even if it's not the top spot. There is a perfect horror film here, it's just not he one presented.