The trailer of the horror movie Skin amarink, now in select theaters before premiering on Shudder later this year, teases a completely confusing and surreal experience. Details about the actual story of the film are scarce, as synopses only claim that the film focuses on two children who wake up in the middle of the night to find their parents and the doors and windows of their house mysteriously gone, while the movie itself is played. just as baffling and bizarre as that description implies. Whether you’re intrigued by the movie or have seen it and are hoping for more answers, you may be surprised by what the whole experience is really about.
WARNING: Spoilers for Skinamarink below
Stripped of its experimental nature, the film’s minimal “plot” sees young Kevin and Kaylee wake up late at night, all alone in the house and with no escape. Attempts to call don’t work, and even the toilet is gone. They take refuge in front of their TV, surrounded by toys and blankets, watching cartoons. Sinister voices call from the shadows, glimpses of their parents appear, Kaylee has her mouth and eyes removed, and the voice encourages Kevin to cut out his eye. Kevin eventually confronts a shadowy entity and a title card provides the information “572 days”, implying that the children have been experiencing this nightmarish event for quite some time.
Potentially for the relief or frustration of the audience, it’s a fruitless attempt to define exactly what happens in the story. Filmmaker Kyle Edward Ball wants the audience to get whatever message they want out of the experience, as he wanted to create an atmospheric experience rather than a linear story. There are both numerous “correct” interpretations or possibly no definitive answer.
At the beginning of the film, the audience sees the children’s father on the phone saying that Kevin was sleepwalking and hurt himself, with some interpretations being that whatever follows is only in the mind of the injured child. Whether any of the following sequences are just a collection of disturbing sequences or whether they are relevant in this family’s life is up to the viewer. In this connection, Skin amarink could provide metaphors for trauma or loss, as the film’s absence of the “real” mother could be due to death or divorce, with the film possibly using surreal imagery to explore the children’s quest to fill that void . There are also theories that the film is meant to depict some form of abuse, as the entity hiding in the shadows is the figure (possibly the mother, father, or another relative) who represents that abuse, while the disappearing doors, windows, and useless phone represent the feeling of being trapped in that inescapable trauma. In this sense, Kaylee’s disappearing eyes and mouth could represent her turning a blind eye to her brother’s abuse or punishment or not speaking out about such trauma.
The film may not be so metaphorical and could be seen as a paranormal experience, where some alien bends reality and torments the children from the shadows, holding them hostage in an alternate reality and subjecting them to physical torture. Even if these events are a bit more literal there is still a lot of room for interpretation for the viewer as they can project this being as they want it to be and interpret the events as they see fit.
Prior to developing Skin amarinkBall released a series of short films for his YouTube channel Biting nightmares, in which he used user-submitted nightmares as inspiration for videos. Some of these nightmares were adapted more literally, others more experimentally, but these films ultimately led him to develop the film 30 minute video Damn. This served as proof of concept for Skin amarink, as they both have the same premise, with the latter being expanded into a feature film experience. The unifying quality of Ball’s films is that they are all inspired by or related to nightmares, which is perhaps the touchstone that explains all of his projects.
Nightmares themselves have no rhyme or reason, no logic, and no physical limitations. They can be inspired by real life events or built entirely from random synapses firing in someone’s brain. Our brains conjure up experiences and ideas that are completely detached from time and space, both meaningless and representative of subconscious thoughts. From this perspective, the events of Skin amarink are both very obvious or completely irrelevant as the most important part of the endeavor was the feelings it evoked as opposed to the narrative cohesion.
While talking to Other way around, Ball shared about the movie’s significance, “I’ve had people DM me like ‘What? So what’s this?’ It doesn’t matter what I think anymore. Now it’s your movie. When I shot and edited the movie, I thought, “This is how I want the viewer to feel.” It was so amazing to see people actually feel the way I planned.”
An unexpected wrinkle in the release of Skin amarink is that it was bootlegged from a film festival’s online platform and circulated through social media for months, but its lo-fi and inexplicable nature blurred the line between fact and fiction. Some users believed that experiencing the movie in segments was due to the fact that they were real home movies, which also inspired users to conjure up their own stories around the mythology of the bizarre images. Leaked versions of the film definitively hurt the project’s box office performance, but this distribution also allowed the film to take on a life of its own.
For audiences looking for more meaning or explanation for the events of Skin amarink, what we see is what we get, with each viewer getting as much or as little out of the experience as they want. The best explanation for the movie is that it’s meant to be a nightmare, where each interpretation is just as valid as the next and assigns as much or as little linear narrative to the experience as you like.
Skin amarink is in theaters now and lands on Shudder later this year.
What did you think of the film? Let us know in the comments or reach out to Patrick Cavanaugh directly on Twitter to talk all about Star Wars and horror!
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