It is not hyperbole to say that for an hour and 40 minutes, nothing happens in Skinamarink. And not in a Clerks or Tokyo Story kind of way either. First-time filmmaker Kyle Edward Ball cannot even choose a point of view to focus on, much less figure out how to wring a narrative out of the nonsensical happenings. This “horror” (used as loosely as possible) debut will only frighten people who get startled by their own shadows every day, as it’s just a slog into nothingness.
The official synopsis on IMDb states, “Two children, siblings Kevin (Lucas Paul) and Kaylee (Dali Rose Tetreault), wake up in the middle of the night to find their father (Ross Paul) missing, and all the windows and doors in their home have vanished.” That is certainly not evident from watching the film. Yes, doors, windows, and even toilets vanish. But that is an action viewers see repeatedly happen. How or why is it happening? Ball clearly does not know because there’s not so much as a grain of sand-sized hint. Then how is the audience supposed to understand what is going on?
Plus, that quoted description leaves out the most perplexing thing. Some kind of demon (?), being from an alternate reality (?), or shadow monster (?), wants to play (?) with Kevin and Kaylee, thus keeping them up all night. What it is, whether it is controlling the disappearing pieces of the house or rewinding time, is neither explored, discussed, or even hinted at.
“…Kevin and Kaylee wake up in the middle of the night to find their father missing…”
The plot of Skinamarink plays out in a series of mostly static, grainy shots of corners of the house. Occasionally the camera is pointed upward, sometimes, it looks down, and in some sequences, it’s centered. All that happens in these scenes is that Legos get knocked about, or a public domain cartoon plays. In what passes for action-packed, some scenes show the characters’ feet as they shuffle to and fro (their faces are seldom seen directly). Then, as if staring at the far corner of the living room for two minutes with loud noises happening just offscreen isn’t the dullest, least scary thing imaginable, scenes will repeat. Why? That’s a good question, one that will never be satisfactorily answered. Anyone who isn’t Ball claiming to know why is literally making it up to suit their idea of what happens.
At one point in Skinamarink, one of the kids asks the entity how they did something. The presence (?) just responds that they have powers. That clears nothing up. Is this a demon tormenting the kids? Are two realities folding in on themselves, and this person (?) is the cause? Is everything happening just the nightmares of Kaylee and Kevin manifesting themselves because of trauma?
It is one thing to be ambiguous and leave viewers thinking. David Lynch and Shane Carruth have made brilliant and successful careers out of just that. More recent titles such as The Green Knight and Birdman invite people on a journey and then leave much open for interpretation. But the director must lay out the groundwork so everyone watching understands the baseline rules and operations of their particular narrative and the world it takes place in. Otherwise, the movie is just sound and fury, signifying nothing. It seems the scenes repeat because Ball was desperate to get to the 100-minute mark.
That’s not to mention the overly loud, distractingly awkward sound design that plagues every forsaken second. Legos being tossed about should not sound like bricks dragging across carpet but does. The sound design is so bad because everything sounds like it’s coming from behind the camera as opposed to within the scene itself. This means that every noise reminds audiences they are watching a motion picture and prevents them from actually being sucked into the “story.”
"…one of the worst movies of all time."