Skinamarink is the current horror movie dividing audiences that hate anything that isn’t a classic franchise from a decade before they were born. But even they start hating those movies because the same base is getting younger and anything prior to the year 2000 is old. Get ready for those House of Wax reappraisal thinkpieces, they’re coming.
When did experimental start bothering people?
We live in an age where the experimental film doesn’t work, yet people keep having success with it. In fact, Skinamarink belongs to the same milieu as experimental successes The Backrooms and the various Creepypastas explored in Nexpo and beyond. There is something about taking the familiar and making it the staging ground for the supernatural that is really speaking to this generation. If I had to put a starting pin at the point,
I am absolutely loving the level of experimental horror that we’ve been receiving lately. However, there comes a time when it starts tipping into filmed Creepypasta territory. While I don’t disagree with the approach that Skinamarink took, I understand the sharp disapproval of the film. People have been trained to approach certain genres by the conventions their generation knows. I mean, how else do you explain the sheer volume of youthful Twitter talking heads losing their minds over sex scenes in film?
Stab a kid in the eye and the world freaks out
Horror against children is still one of those amazing film taboos. Skinamarink enjoys taking little Kevin and Kaylee into the horror of the suburban home at night. Kevin gets stabbed in the eye and has his injuries healed. Kaylee is subjected to unseen terror and vanishes for stretches of time. Nothing makes sense except for the fact that the sole seen parent keeps sleeping through most of the action until something goes wrong.
One thing I’ve been noticing is that people who don’t have kids are feeling really disconnected from the material. Skinamarink might work better if you’re directly in an experience where you can understand how the young mind works at night. The more you remove from what a little kid understands, the more the horror increases. The move to go so young with Kevin as the focal point of Skinamarink adds dimension to this.
There’s also something very interesting about young primal fear. When you’re dealing with a kid under the age of 7-8, you have a child that barely understands things like street address, phone numbers and basic information. In fact, their sense of identity and where they exist depends on what they can observe and their parental figures. Skinamarink wisely chooses to remove this in the dark corridors of the house.
Faces appear around corners and in shadows, while a strange voice appears from nowhere. Could it be a monster, a tired parent stumbling in the dark or a child’s wild imagination? For the sake of horror, let’s say it’s an invasive monster. What Skinamarink does right is show how this threat is perceived at a child’s level. Ill-defined, but threatening not just in its violence but in its inability to be deciphered.
The power of POV
What makes violence against children even more fascinating is when you do it from their POV. Add to the mix, the power of liminal space for a film experience that will be new to the mainstream viewer. For those that haven’t been following pop psychology for the last six years, liminal spaces are those areas of where you were and where you never quite existed. Watch the video below to understand them a little better.
There is something to the human mind and its ability to define the strange and unusual. Hell, just look at how much The Backrooms has taken off in a short amount of time. It’s pretty easy to scare people once, but to keep them scared and evolve with what they process is something unique. By choosing to target a child instead of your typical horror movie teen/young adult, Skinamarink places the audience somewhere it doesn’t want to be. Watching a child in a strange environment with minimal chance of survival floundering about the place.
Liminal spaces don’t feel good for a reason. It’s the same feel as tearing wings off bees and other insects. If you do it right, they’ll live. But, they’re not going to be the same from having experienced that trauma.
Shudder and IFC Midnight are low key saving horror.
While many of you might have missed the film’s limited theatrical release window, Shudder is here to help you out. Having been playing on Shudder for most of February, I’m hoping this finds most of the audience at a point when they’ve had a chance to see it. From the people that have watched Skinamarink so far, their response only solidified how much I enjoyed the film.
While, horror is still undergoing many changes, I have to admire those that still swing for the fences. By the time this film hits 3 months old, you’ll see a litany of YouTube videos about what Skinamarink means and why audiences hate/love it. But, placing a definition on a film like this is missing the point. Art is experience and a carefully crafted experience at a child’s POV in near darkness is quite an interesting film.
I am one of the converted to Shudder‘s immense power. Who else is doing more to define horror in the modern age than this premium channel pulling together the best in domestic and world genre cinema? This is the kind of outlet I would’ve loved to have as a horror loving kid.
What should I take away about Skinamarink?
Skinamarink exists as a look at what would scare a kid and parent equally. A fascinating night time terror of ill-defined environment and constant threat. You rarely feel as powerless as you do in audience surrogate Kevin. It’s almost like there is an unspoken rule that horror films aren’t supposed to put kids in danger as much as this film does. Nobody bring that up to Danny Pintauro.