Gentle readers, I am truly astonished. I was not expecting such a strong candidate for “Most Malicious Disappointment” this early in the year, but here we fucking are!
Skinamarink is maybe three or four minutes of plot stretched out to 100 minutes of runtime. If I squint and tilt my head, I can almost see a kind of allegory in which a couple of young siblings (Kevin and Kaylee, respectively played by Lucas Paul and Dali Rose Tetreault) are left to their own devices by a couple of negligent parents. Thus they stay up late to watch cartoons and play with their toys under the watchful eye of some unknowable malevolent force playing supernatural shenanigans on the house.
The central gimmick here is that we lay our scene at some point in the mid-’90s. Thus the film has a distinctly analog feel, like it was shot on home videotape. It adds a lot to the atmosphere, as we watch the film grain swirling and we hear the white noise of the microphone. All well and good.
The problem is that the film grain swirling is often the only movement we ever see. There are huge stretches in which the white noise is the only audio we get. We never see the characters speak, we hardly ever see their faces… hell, the characters are barely onscreen through the entire running time.
We’re looking at 100 solid minutes of watching blank walls and untouched furniture in empty rooms, all shot in monochromatic night vision. Aside from a few weird gravity shenanigans and one or two cheaply obnoxious jump scares, that’s all we get. There’s no plot, no coherent theme, nothing concrete in the way of explaining what’s going on, just 100 solid minutes of staring at the screen and hoping that something will happen.
Put it this way: Remember Paranormal Activity? Imagine if that movie was LESS exciting. With even LESS plot. It really is like debut writer/director/editor Kyle Edward Ball saw Paranormal Activity, looked at all the long stretches of home surveillance footage in which nothing whatsoever happened and said “Oh yeah, THIS is the best part of the movie. THIS is what people paid to come and see.”
No joke, when I left midway through for a bathroom break, I was in no hurry whatsoever to come back. I could’ve spent five unbroken minutes outside the theater, going to the bathroom or checking my phone, completely and totally safe in my confidence that I would miss nothing of importance while I was out. That’s probably the worst condemnation I could give any movie, but especially to a horror film.
I used to think that the number one unforgivable sin of any horror movie was to be safe. Nobody should ever feel safe while watching a horror movie, that defeats the whole purpose. But this one is a “horror” movie that’s somehow even worse than safe: It’s boring.
True story, I was watching this movie with a whole theatre full of arthouse cinema fanatics and every single one of us was dumbstruck by how tedious this movie was. I distinctly remember one time when — to the sound of a deafening screech — the movie showed us a character’s face with their eyes and mouth blanked out. After the cut, someone in the audience just said “Great”, and the whole theater burst out laughing. Biggest reaction of the night, aside from the huge collective groan that came with the words “The End.”
To paraphrase a wiser film critic than I am, this film is too normal to be Dada and too shit to be anything else. Thus it falls into this weird sort of avant garde space in which the filmmaker practically dares the audience to try and find some deeper meaning. There was clearly an intention here, and everything in the film was a deliberate artistic choice, but trying to interpret those decisions into some kind of coherent statement just isn’t worth the fucking effort.
It would take an astronomical pain threshold and a cast-iron stomach for the most experimental of arthouse cinema to sit through Skinamarink. Only the most die-hard of intellectual cinephiles need apply for this one, and I can’t even guarantee that they would find anything of value in this. I’ve long held a policy that any movie that feels like work isn’t looking forward to a good write-up, and this movie was fucking exhausting beyond belief. I can’t remember the last time 100 minutes felt this long or this boring.
Paranormal Activity had more action, more plot, and more scares than this. The Blair Witch Project had more character development and better world-building. Shit, Cloverfield made me so motion-sick that I literally puked my guts out after watching it and my sister had to drive me home (If I’m lying, I’m dying.) and I’d still rather go through that again than rewatch this movie because at least something fucking happened in that movie and I felt something other than mind-crushing tedium.
FUCK THIS MOVIE.