Updated: Jan 20
Under certain circumstances, even the most familiar of spaces can seem utterly terrifying. When you’re trapped in your own home for weeks at a time, when you're isolated from friends and family, when the rhythms of daily life deteriorate in the absence of a normal routine, the psyche projects fragmented nightmares and distorted memories into reality; every bump in the night becomes ominous, every creaky floorboard foreboding, every environment haunted. What malevolent specters might lurk in the hallway just outside your door? Or inside your closet? Or behind the shower curtain? These fears are completely irrational, of course… but that doesn’t make them feel any less substantial.
Kyle Edward Ball’s Skinamarink—an immaculately crafted exercise in suspense and atmosphere currently screening at IFC Center ahead of its streaming debut on Shudder—perfectly conveys this unconventional flavor of horror. The cinematography frequently obscures the action, emphasizing mundane objects—furniture, photographs, discarded toys—and relegating the characters to the periphery of the frame. The minimalistic lighting—the majority of which is provided by the meager, flickering illumination of a television screen—further obfuscates the visuals, creating shadows so deep and rich that they appear almost tangible. The artificial film grain and scratches added to the image in postproduction only enhance the surreal effect, causing the darkness to writhe and undulate like a living organism.
In addition to immersing the audience in the young, frightened, vulnerable protagonist’s point-of-view, this stylized presentation evokes the sensation of hovering in that nebulous realm between consciousness and sleep, wherein dreams begin to manifest in the waking world. Did you really glimpse a spectral figure scurrying across your ceiling? Did you actually hear a voice call your name from underneath your bed? Or were these supernatural experiences merely figments of your imagination—hallucinations conjured by a combination of fatigue and anxiety?
If your mind can’t tell the difference, do such distinctions truly matter?