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Skinamarink (2022) Review: A Misunderstood Masterpiece


Skinamarink is one of the most divisive films I’ve ever seen. It’s a very good example of a split down the middle, love-it-or-hate-it movie. I can almost understand why many don’t like it, but I can’t lie- watching this film was without a doubt the most terrifying experience I have ever had while consuming a piece of media. Skinamarink is a deeply evil film that will toy with your emotions and sense of reality until you are practically begging for it to end.

I find it incredible that a film as unusual and bizarre as Skinamarink was able to gain such a following; it was leaked online and passed around before it was released, establishing a sizable fanbase before it even came out. This is the main reason why it’s become fairly popular, and it makes sense that platforms like TikTok and Twitter were the ones to spread it around. It shares a lot of traits with internet-created horror, such as liminal spaces, heavy film grain, outlandish concepts, and the feeling that something is very wrong. Think of the idea behind a popular series like The Backrooms. When I say that we never have and never will see another movie like Skinamarink, I mean it. The concept behind it is so weird that it instantly drove a lot of people away. The most common complaint I see is that ‘nothing happens’ or ‘it’s just shots of walls and ceilings’, which I completely disagree with. If you want this movie to work, you really have to dedicate yourself to it. It’s pretty much entirely composed of still shots, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It employs the use of liminal spaces, dark lighting, static, and quiet noises to create an atmosphere around those still shots. To best experience this film, start it no earlier than 10 P.M., ensure that all of your lights are turned off, ignore your phone for the next hour and forty minutes, make sure you’re alone, and just watch it. You shouldn’t take your eyes away for a single second. Not pausing a movie can be a big ask, especially if you’re not enjoying it, but I really do think it’s the best way to watch Skinamarink. Allowing it to completely engross you with its terrifying visuals and sound design makes for a truly memorable viewing.

The idea behind liminal spaces is that it seems to be an average photo at first glance, but you just get the feeling that something’s off the more you look at it. For example, here are some of the more recognizable pictures of The Backrooms:

At first glance, they seem like normal pictures of pretty average looking rooms; maybe something like a hotel hallway. But, the longer you look at them, you start to feel a little uncomfortable. You begin to imagine the low humming of the yellow florescent lights, the smell of a musty carpet, and realize that you can’t see anywhere outside of this room. There are no windows, no other hallways, just this odd looking space. It’s hard to explain why this picture is off-putting, but it is. Almost all of the horror from Skinamarink is scary because of the atmosphere the cinematography establishes. The dark and distinct lighting mixed with the constant static and whispering voices creates an environment so tense that it’s hard to sit through at times. Thanks to the strong static filter, I found myself staring into the black parts of the screen during its many still shots and seeing things moving around in the dark; think of when you rub your eyes and can make out shapes and figures. I watched Skinamarink in a pitch-black basement at night with no distractions, and that really added to it. I paused it once, which led to one of the oddest moments I’ve ever had while watching a movie; I had gotten up to use the bathroom, and could have sworn I saw something moving in the dark because of what I was seeing in the movie’s dark areas. No other film has ever made me literally see something that wasn’t real.

No other movie, TV series, video game, book, song, or any other form of media has given me a feeling quite like this did. The only one I can think of that compares is Hereditary, and that still didn’t impact me nearly as much. It feels like a vague memory of a horrific nightmare director Kyle Edward Ball once had and transmitted it onto screen directly from his brain. This isn’t supposed to be a representation of what a traumatizing childhood nightmare feels like, but what it is. Skinamarink instills the exact feeling of uncontrollable fear into a viewer that they have felt at some point throughout their childhood. It reminds you of those times that you tried to make it to your parents’ bedroom in the darkness without making a noise, scared out of your mind with each careful step. You’re left sitting there with a pit in your stomach, tears in your eyes, unable to move or speak,  desperately pleading for it to stop. This is not a movie that you forget about. This is the kind of movie that sticks with and impacts you for the rest of your life. Skinamarink does not even attempt to have a coherent plot, developed character, typical story structure, or anything you’d expect from a normal movie. It’s the perfect embodiment of those unspecific, scrambled memories of a nightmare where time doesn’t seem to exist that just become more staticky with age.

‘Negative nostalgia’ would probably be a foreign concept to most; it’s something of an oxymoron. How can a memory be a bad one if you feel nostalgia towards it? Skinamarink puts you in a house that will probably remind you of the one you grew up in, as it was filmed in the director’s childhood home. You’ll feel as if you’re surrounded by your sibling and your favorite toys, but something’s different. Nothing exactly dangerous is happening, but you know that it’s certainly different. But, since nobody but your sibling and toys are there, you sit down and start playing, ignoring everything else. By the time you realize that something’s wrong, all of the doors and windows have vanished, the phone isn’t working, and there isn’t even a toilet. I said earlier that it seems as if this is based off of a nightmare Kyle Edward Ball had at some point, and I think it’s very interesting how so many other people are reminded of their own childhood by watching Skinamarink. It reaches into your mind and either exploits your memories of a traumatizing nightmare, or distorts your positive memories and turns them into something terrifying.

While there is something of a linear story with a couple of characters, it’s not really supposed to make sense. Yes, there are a few certain events that you’ll remember the most, but a lot of it really is just tension-building shots of the same few environments. While I was unsettled throughout the entire runtime and certainly scared at a few key moments, Skinamarink doesn’t really bare its fangs until the final twenty minutes. The final portion of this film is filled with so much dread and anxiety that I’m a little uncomfortable remembering it while typing this. While the movie’s playing, you can follow the extremely loose plot, but you’re never even close to understanding what’s going on. You’re asking it to show even a fraction of the truth to reduce the horror of the unknown, but when it does, it’s so deeply horrifying that you can only shrink and cower and wait for it to end.

I think that the fact that this review only aims to explain how and why Skinamarink affected me and doesn’t even mention a single character or plot point throughout just speaks to the film’s effectiveness. I can’t think of a single other horror movie (or movie in general) where I could write a review without talking about its plot, characters, or story structure. I really could not recommend this film more; while there’s a very good chance you’ll hate it, it’s worth giving a shot in case you become one of its fans. Many hate Skinamarink and many more will, but for those of us that really love it, it’s scary on a level that no other horror film can even begin to compare to. I honestly cannot give a movie that affected me this much anything but a perfect 10/10.

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