Skinamarink ★★★★½

"The first sound to pierce the night is a father slamming a door. He’s just found his son Kevin (Lucas Paul) injured, crying, having fallen down a flight of stairs in the night. A daughter, Kaylee (Dali Rose Tetreault), covertly watching cartoons in her bedroom, reflexively turns the television off when she hears her father’s footsteps approach soon after. The specifics of Kevin and Kaylee’s home life are rarely made more concrete than this, but in moments like these, director Kyle Edward Ball conveys all that’s needed to feed the fears to come.

Skinamarink, Ball’s feature debut, hinges on the unsaid and the unseen, only tilting further into its narrative negative space as it progresses. Key events presage the film’s horrors—Kevin and Kaylee’s father disappearing, and doors and windows mysteriously vanishing to trap the children in their house. But what soon takes over the picture is a compounding fear of absence. Gulfs of time between traditional scares seem to grow longer. The frames seem to get darker, as previous shots repeat with lesser visible detail in each iteration. And in the overbearing absence, Ball sets the viewer’s mind racing—in worrying about what lurks in the unlit recesses of a room, or in trying to attach significance to his free-associative sequence of images the same way a child might try to make sense of their nightmares."

Had the tremendous honor of making my debut with Reverse Shot reviewing Skinamarink and writing on how it uses its aesthetic abstractions to evoke the sense memories of childhood abuse, neglect, and abandonment as filtered through nightmares.

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