REVIEW: ‘Skinamarink’ (2022) Brings Childhood Fears to Life

Rating: 3 out of 5.

“A nightmarish haze that has some truly terrifying yet gorgeous imagery and sound design”

Kyle Edward Ball’s Skinamarink focuses on two children, Kevin (Lucas Paul) and Kaylee (Dali Rose Tetreault), who wake up to find that their parents (Ross Paul and Jaime Hill) are missing and all the windows and doors in the house have mysteriously vanished. With no way out, Kevin and Kaylee settle in for the night, distracting themselves by playing with toys and watching cartoons. The film opens on a shot of a playroom with LEGOs scattered about, and there’s a slow pan over to the open door that gives a view out into a dark hallway. There’s a sense of familiarity that settles over viewers as they are taken through this house shot by shot, where darkness is punctured by the cold blue light of the television and the only reprieve from the deafening silence is the sound of cartoons playing off in the distance. These sounds of whimsical music and birds chirping are juxtaposed with this eerie setting, bringing an even greater sense of unease.

A darkened room with an illuminated television screen. Two children, a boy and a girl, are seen in shadow from behind.
Image courtesy of BayView Entertainment

Just when it feels as though audiences are going to finally get a sense of the environment, strange occurrences begin to happen without explanation, and fear of the unknown is heightened. There isn’t a reliance on jump scares; rather, it’s a slow burn that creates an almost liminal space, as it feels like this house can only exist in another world where time and space are unknown. The use of digital grain is utilized, for the most part, in a way that elevates the film and works to further disorient its audience. The entire experience brings back memories of childhood and the fear of what could be out there in the dark, allowing imaginations to run wild yet again. That’s where the brilliance of this film lies: its ability to elicit such a dreadful feeling in the pit of one’s stomach without ever being cheap with the scares. 

But audiences may find themselves longing for more when it comes to the narrative itself. Though able to piece together the story, viewers never see anyone’s face or learn much about who these people are, what’s going on with them, and why, keeping them at arm’s length from ever being able to feel a connection to the characters’ personal story. This is obviously a deliberate choice and it’s something that could work to enhance the experience, but it tends to be more of a detriment as the film carries on. The built-up tension that it worked so hard to create in the beginning starts to die down when audiences realize they don’t have much to grasp onto. From there, everything begins to drag. Stakes aren’t that high, causing the scenes to become dull and repetitive. The issue isn’t with the slower pace but the fact that there just isn’t enough to engage with unless audiences are already fully invested.

A darkened room with an ominous shot of a children's telephone toy.
Image courtesy of BayView Entertainment

Skinamarink is a nightmarish haze that has some truly terrifying yet gorgeous imagery and sound design that will get under one’s skin. Despite its faults, what Ball has created here is inspiring nonetheless. There’s a lot to love about this film, but the 100-minute runtime never feels justified and instead makes its weaknesses all the more apparent.