One Skinamarink Shot Features A Real Person You Can't See, And Director Kyle Edward Ball Will Never Tell Which One

Kyle Edward Ball's "Skinamarink" may be one of the most terrifying films in years. Dispensing with familiar storytelling tropes, "Skinamarink" takes place entirely in the director's childhood home, following a pair of children, only four and six, as they wander the darkened halls at 3 a.m., lit only by the flickering light from their cathode ray tube television. In nightmarish fashion, the windows and doors appear to be absent, as does their father. The children's faces aren't ever clearly seen. Weird shifting and thumping noises emanate from other rooms. Few words are uttered above a whisper. Very occasionally, a voice will drift through the ether to the children. "Look under the bed" it will say. You, dear viewer, will be screaming "NOOOOO!"

Ball's intention — which he pulled off quite successfully — was to reactivate long-dormant childhood nightmares. Ball previously ran a YouTube channel called Bitesized Nightmares wherein viewers could write in with descriptions of their most vivid scary dreams, and he would recreate the descriptions on film. "Skinamarink" is the feature film of that. He offers no explanations or analysis of his images. He merely presents them unaltered. He seems to know that there might be a curious, terrifying commonality between them. 

Part of the eerie, horrible magic of "Skinamarink" is the shimmer of its film stock. Shot on film, many of the images are low-fi, hazy, and full of subtle visual static. The "fuzz" entreats viewers to stare, to scan, to look for images in the dark. Occasionally, an image does appear — perhaps — out of the darkness. The viewer can never be sure. 

There may be someone there in the dark. There may not be.

Standing in the dark

In a recent interview with Inverse, Ball revealed that one of the darkened hallway shots in "Skinamarink" did indeed have a person in it. It will be impossible to pinpoint which shot Ball refers to, as his film encourages the imagination to play tricks, but at least one of the imagined demons a viewer conjured was not imagined at all. Not that Ball would be so accommodating as to reveal which shot it was. He would prefer his viewers be lost in fear. He said: 

"There is one shot in the movie where there is someone, a real person, standing in the dark, and I am never telling anyone which shot that is. I promise you I'm not bulls*******. But there is a shot of darkness where we did have someone standing in frame and I thought it'd be creepy for this shot to pull it down so much, but not so much that they disappeared completely. I'll never tell, and that's the magic. Maybe a video forensicist [sic] will find it one day."

Said forensics expert will, of course, require an iron will to watch a film like "Skinamarink" more than once. 

A word to the wise: do not watch "Skinamarink" alone at night. If you have to get up and move to another room in the dark, you will be convinced that scary, demonic things are happening to the place where you live. 

"Skinamarink" is about children wandering through a house in Edmonton, Alberta in 1995, but there does seem to be something universal, something downright Jungian about its imagery. Peer into the darkness. Someone might be there.

"Skinamarink" is in theaters on January 13, 2023.