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'Skinamarink' taps into some primal fears

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It’s often been said that what you can’t see is scarier than what you can, and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything that puts that to the test more than the indie horror movie Skinamarink.

The film was made for just $15,000 and was shot in director Kyle Edward Ball’s childhood home, and both things are crucial to the movie being what it is. It tells the story of two kids whose parents disappear one night, along with all the doors and windows to the house, and we see what unfolds.

But it’s the way this happens that’s important. We spend long, long periods of time just staring into the dark, we see the inside of the house at strange angles, sometimes not sure if we’re staring at the ceiling, or a staircase, or something else. We almost never see anyone’s face, and the sound design is at least as important as anything we do see… if not more so, given much of what we look at is pitch black. It all adds up to something we probably all did as children, and sometimes still do—we peer into the night wondering if we’re seeing something that’s actually there, or if our mind is playing tricks on us. The extremely grainy film dances around as our eyes search for anything to make sense of, any shape that might give us a clue as to what we are or aren’t really seeing. It puts you in a disorienting, intense headspace that compounds as the movie continues.

Skinamarink will tap into some people’s deep, primal fears and leave them shaken. A lot of other people will be bored stiff and might not even make it 20 minutes before they just give up. But it’s a movie that’s absolutely, 100 percent committed to itself, and it never wavers from that commitment.

Skinamarink is in theaters.

Fletcher Powell has worked at KMUW since 2009 as a producer, reporter, and host. He's been the host of All Things Considered since 2012 and KMUW's movie critic since 2016. Fletcher is a member of the Critics Choice Association.