Skinamarink ★★★★★

Skinamarink requires absolute engagement on its own terms. Corny as it sounds, it really must be watched in the dark, with no distractions, for its horribly oppressive atmosphere to completely envelop the viewer - but if the effort is made, the film offers a deeply unsettling and experimental narrative about unknowable horror through the eyes of a child.

Taking inspiration from analogue horror series on YouTube like Local 58 and The Mandela Catalogue, Skinamarink is narratively murky with the aesthetic of 90s-00s technology and media. Where it vastly improves on these series, however, is in its format: as a film, the pacing is allowed to be snail-slow and does not rely on frequent and tired jumpscares.

Low shots and all-consuming darkness make the house setting feel huge, leading to an extremely genuine-feeling filmic depiction of a child's point-of-view perspective. Heavy grain makes the darkness of each shot a swirling mass, shapes forming and fading before they can be recognised as genuinely there or not. The sound design is exceptional - muffled, droning, and seemingly distant, voices are often hard to parse, dialogue lost in the noise.

While it is tempting to compare many of the filmmaking choices here to David Lynch's unique direction, this does both filmmakers a disservice; if Inland Empire and Mulholland Drive are depictions of the unsettling and bizarre nature of dreams, then Skinamarink is a depiction of the confusion and vulnerability of childhood memory - and how that memory can be distorted and sullied by trauma. While similar, this distinction is important. The characters are seen from basically their knees down for the entire narrative, faces lost in remembrance, only shown when heavily altered or - as in the final moments of the film - altogether inhuman.

As others have said, Skinamarink's narrative symbolises the terrible consequences of child abuse. The familiar becomes foreign, figures of safety and stability vanish, and the home becomes a prison. The 'entity', the voice speaking to the children, manipulates the voices of others, controlling them, before shifting and warping away from the recognisable as the narrative goes on.

This film is absolutely not for everyone and if experienced in the wrong context it loses so much of what makes it special - but if approached how it wants to be approached, Skinamarink is a unique masterpiece of modern horror, inspiring a sense of dread and genuine child-like fear like nothing else.

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