Experimental, arthouse horror Skinamarink is the kind of film to be experienced rather than necessarily followed as you would a more traditional movie.
Named after a nonsense playground chant from North America, the plot of this Canadian film - written and directed by Kyle Edward Ball - revolves around the travails of two seemingly abandoned young children, four-year-old Kevin (Lucas Paul) and his sister, six-year-old Kaylee (Dali Rose Tetreault).
The kids wake up in the middle of the night to discover all the windows and doors leading out of their home have disappeared, along with their father (Ross Paul) and mother (Jaime Hill).
Kevin and Kaylee decamp to the lounge and turn on the television to watch cartoons while they play with their toys.
Soon, though, they realise they are not alone in the house, and a strange, disembodied, voice starts speaking to them and making demands of them.
When Kaylee tries to challenge the omnipotent entity, she is punished, and it is left to her younger brother to wander through the 'haunted house' alone.
Shot almost entirely at a low angle, so that we are either taking the point-of-view of one of the young protagonists or simply seeing events unravel from their level, the disorientating film demands our attention from the moment it begins.
We barely glimpse the children - the adults we see even less - and it's usually just legs and feet, while the dialogue is a mixture of often mumbled, naturalistic, delivery and - when it's too quiet to properly make out - subtitles.
The only sounds we hear are diegetic, so there are long periods of near-silence where - if you've surrendered yourself to the movie experience - you start to subsume sounds from your own environment, until you can't tell what's happening in the movie and what's in the room with you.
Lighting is also minimal, often coming just from the flickering of the TV screen or a child's torch,.
Ball's obsession with the TV screen and the way objects flicker in and out of existence scream David Lynch and it wouldn't take much, if you were so inclined, to headcanon this slice of disturbing weirdness into the world of Twin Peaks.
If demons and the supernatural were real, I can't help believing that an actual encounter with a paranormal entity might be something akin to the experience of watching this movie: intense, unsettling, confusing, baffling, bewildering, and ultimately beyond our comprehension.
There is no "stunt man in rubber suit" or slick CGI monster serving up jump scares. In a very Lovecraftian way, at its core, Skinamarink is clearly "something man was not meant to know".
Nothing that happens is overtly explained, meaning Skinamarink is the ultimate montage movie; it is up to us to assemble our version of what's going on from the succession of images and sounds that Ball provides us with.
Depending on the personal baggage and preconceptions you bring to Skinamarink, it's either a terrifyingly immersive and psychological descent into a child's nightmare encounter with a demon or 105 minutes of laughably pretentious bullshit. Your mileage will vary.
Personally, I'm glad I watched this peculiar work of mad genius as I've never seen anything quite like it before, but I have no great desire to see it again in a hurry.
I was hooked by it as it played but the concentration required to fully absorb Skinamarink was rather draining.
- Skinamarink is now streaming on Shudder.
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