Berkreviews Skinamarink (2022)

The hype around Skinamarink (2022) made me excited to check out this film. Unfortunately, the style of this film did not click for me. I have a hard time with abstract or avant-garde style works. Jackson Pollock’s paintings are worth tons of money, and many people will tell you why they’re brilliant. To me, it’s just paint splattered on a canvas – and that’s really what Skinamarink feels like. Kyle Edward Ball’s choices with several of the aspects initially seemed compelling, and I was excited to see what they would lead to…but by the end of the film, I just felt bored and frustrated. 

The plot reads that two kids wake in the middle of the night to find that their dad is gone, as are all the exterior doors and windows. Now, whether you’ll be able to decipher that throughout the runtime of the film feels similar to seeing the hidden image in Autostereograms. The visuals in the film are tops of door frames, Legos, a TV, and other household objects. There isn’t really an explanation as to why those are the visuals. It’s these abstract images – and often underlit moments – that really started to irritate me, as the choice to do so never felt necessary; it was just cinematic paint splatter. 

If you take The Blair Witch Project (1999) as an example, the shots aren’t all masterpieces, but we understand they are filming a documentary, and the “found footage” elements justify the bad camera work. In the Paranormal Activity series, most of the footage is security camera style, so our limited perspective makes sense. Yet, in both of those series, we still manage to really see the important things that add to the narrative. While Skinamarink feels like we should be seeing much more, of course, it is the sound design that really tells the story. 

For the sound to be quite so important, the quality of it is really inconsistent. The voice performances are all over the place in terms of the audio recordings. Sometimes they’re too loud and become distorted. Other times, they’re too quiet, and you can barely hear them. To solve this problem, captions are used, but even this is inconsistent with when we get captions. Add in that for all or most of the movie there is the sound of static, implying that we are watching a recording of some kind – but this is never clarified. 

While I believe it is the choice of the filmmaker that we see what we see on screen, I can’t wrap my head around many of the “why” of the choices that are in this film. I appreciate not really seeing the kids, and not showing things is a major part of horror in general. It is often what we don’t see that is indeed scary. I just found the soundscape in this film to feel like a bad haunted house experience, and the visuals even worse. The few times I was scared by something popping onto the screen felt completely unearned by the film I was watching. 

Skinamarink is definitely going to be divisive. I found it more enraging than scary, and I was completely alone at my early matinee screening. Because of the empty theater, I decided to stand up towards the last twenty minutes to keep from dozing off. I love that indie films get made and that people are able to express themselves in a variety of ways. Sometimes, those ways aren’t going to click with our subjective lenses – and this one did not. Skinamarink earns the Not a Total Waste of Time mostly for that reason.

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