Skinamarink, which premiered at Fantasia Festival earlier this year, feels like a home movie you shouldn’t be watching. In many ways, the grainy nature and surreal nontraditional plotting reminded me a bit of another cursed film, Antrum: The Deadliest Film Ever Made. Writer and Director Kyle Edward Ball’s film isn’t for everyone. It’s a plodding, grim, nasty little number that holds you in dread for nearly the entire hour and forty-minute run time. There’s hardly any dialogue besides some hushed weird whispers and a handful of growling yelp-inducing warnings. There is even less linear storytelling. Skinamarink is the very definition of experimental.
The anxiety inducer is a painful movie that will remind everyone what it was to feel vulnerable and alone in the dark as a child. The hopeful curiosity that guides our imaginative play during the day can turn against us at night and make us hear and see those things that go bump in the night. It is an unsettling film that rides the edge between maddening ambiguity and grisly truth. The highly metaphorical film has a lot to say between the legos, muffled nonsense, and darkened upside hallways. Here’s everything you need to know about Skinamarink, what really happened to Kevin, his Mom, and Kaylee, and was there a monster in the house?
Spoilers for Skinamarink are below……..
The film opens with a static shot that defines the majority of the film. Two small children patter around, playing, and watching television. Suddenly a series of thuds followed by crying is heard, and then a closing door. We next hear Dad talking to someone on the phone about Kevin, presumably. He tells whoever he is talking to Kevin is okay and didn’t even need stitches. Shortly after this, things go downhill for the children. The house takes on a mind of its own with things disappearing, including the kids’ father and all the doors. Something just out of the camera’s lens whispers and grunts, cries and requests terrible things from the children. It culminates in a disturbing insinuation about the amount of time spent in this hellscape and a repeated murder, seen in splashes of blood and the mangled screams of a young boy.
What really happened to Kevin?
The phone conversation at the beginning of Skinamarink is a clue that what is happening isn’t real in the strictest sense. Kevin did fall down the stairs, but he is likely not okay. The poor child is almost certainly severely injured, and everything that happens from that point forward is the imagined nightmare of a damaged mind. One of Ball’s previous shorts, Heck, from which this movie was based, deals with the same subject matter, although in a slightly different manner. Everything from feeling trapped to the number of days displayed at the bottom of the screen late in the movie is an indication that the boy is in a coma and has been for over a year.
Although we don’t see their mother, we hear her talking to Kevin, telling him to close his eyes and sleep. This could be her way of saying goodbye to Kevin as he slipped into a coma or died. His childish mind interpreted it as her visiting him at home and leaving him alone and afraid. All of the blood seen earlier in the film and during his repeated death scene could be his real memory of seeing all of the blood from his accident.
What happened to Kevin and Kaylee’s mother?
For unknown reasons, Kaylee’s mother is not in the house at the film’s beginning. Some have posited that this points to divorce or separation. These events can obviously be confusing, upsetting times for children. Their father’s phone call to someone about Kevin could be him talking to his ex-wife about their mutual child. Kaylee does not want to talk about their mother though, which points to something darker. The children do not call out for their mother early when they first become frightened. There might be a significant reason for their refusal to call for their mother.
A horrible crunching noise is heard when their mother shows up at the house and speaks to Kevin. The monster in the house could have eaten her up, or it could be symbolic of a grimmer fact. Kaylee and Kevin’s mother could either be dead before the movie’s events, or she could be a child abuser. This specter of death and the monster that wears the kid’s face would seem all-powerful and inescapable.
Skinamarink and metaphors for death and child abuse
Taken at face value, Skinamarink is about a paranormal entity that can warp time and space. It sets up residence in Kevin and Kaylee’s home and isolates them before doing unspeakable things to them. It removes Kaylee’s mouth and kills Kevin over and over just for fun. When viewed for deeper meanings, it is about the confusion and fear of death or betrayal.
The extended time spent in the hallway with the upside-down ceiling represents Kevin’s world being turned upside down. His view of the world would be skewed if he lay on a hospital bed stuck in a coma staring at the ceiling. It could also be Kevin trying to make sense of a betrayal from his mother. One of the two people he should most be able to trust and care for is his greatest source of pain.
The shot of Kaylee having her mouth removed could be Kevin’s inability to speak with his sister. After so much time has passed, she may not visit him at the hospital as often or at all anymore. If he had died, he wouldn’t be able to speak with her, and her mouthless face is all he is left with.
Another horrific possibility is their mother could have been abusing the kids, and her transformation into a monster is how Kevin translated the unimaginable betrayal. Maybe she silenced Kaylee to keep the secret of the abuse? It’s a bleak thought that is somehow even more awful than Kevin being dead.
The children’s song, which provides the title for Ball’s film, is from The Elephant Show in the 1980s. It is a silly little ditty that means nothing. When viewed through the lens of death or abuse, though, shadows best left hidden emerge. I don’t want to know what happened to Kevin in that house.
Skinamarinky dinky dink
Skinamarink a doo, I love you
Skinamarinky dinky dink
Skinamarink a doo, I love you
I love you in the morning
and in the afternoon,
I love you in the evening
and underneath the moon!
So, Skinamarinky dinky dink
Skinamarink a doo,
I love you and you and you and you and
you and you and YOU!
Then again, everything we see could have happened as Kevin sees it but from a slightly distorted perspective. Maybe people broke into his house in the middle of the night and drugged the children. They then killed the parents and began torturing the kids. While I don’t subscribe to that more basic reading of the film, I don’t think a supernatural creature invaded the house and randomly tortured two kids.
Skinamarink is deceptively clever, and that is the brilliance of the film. It reminds the viewer of that time when anything was possible and then forces you to wallow in the all-consuming fear your worst nightmares induced. It’s the kind of bone-deep scare that prevents you from screaming for help and roots you in place. I don’t want to see the metaphor that Skinamarink smartly rolls out. I don’t want to, but I can’t help but believe it. The real monsters in this world are death and abuse. Although it reminds us of being young, the bigger fears are all adult. Nothing this terrible should ever have to happen to a child.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.