New to Shudder today is the Canadian low-budget, experimental horror movie, Skinamarink. The movie – the debut feature-film from writer/director Kyle Edward Ball – stars Lucas Paul and Dali Rose Tetreault, and follows the story of two young children who encounter something strange in their home.

In the movie, Kevin and Kaylee wake up in the middle of the night to discover their father is missing. After a little exploration upstairs, to see if they can locate him, they notice that doors and windows no longer appear to be where they should.

Concerned and a little afraid, Kevin and Kaylee decide it would be better if they slept downstairs until their father returns. They then set themselves up in front of the television and begin to watch old cartoons.

A short time later the children hear strange noises in the house. They decide to investigate, and encounter some unusual phenomena along the way.

Image: ©Shudder

*Takes a deep breath*

Where do I even begin with Skinamarink? Ha… oh, dear.


Think back to when you were a very small child, around the age of maybe 6 or 7-years-old, and try to remember what it felt like when you got into bed at night and you found it difficult to sleep. You would lie there, willing yourself to drift into a slumber, but after ten minutes of trying to visit the Land of Nod, ultimately your eyes would open and you would stare into the darkness that engulfed you.

The longer you remained in this situation, the more you then became aware of your surroundings. But theses surroundings were no longer the bright colourful places that you recognised in the day; they were now a spooky, scary environment that suddenly seemed alien.

And as your eyes darted around your bedroom, all your furniture and belongings now appeared to take on a new form. The innocent chair in the corner, which no one ever sat on, suddenly seemed quite frightening; and you would swear blind the pile of stuffed animals at the bottom of your bed were moving.

To make matters worse, the house was also making strange noises. One minute it sounded like someone was creeping up the stairs, touching every loose floorboard along the way, while the next minute everything went deathly silent, except for the pounding of your own heartbeat.

Remember what it felt like? Remember that point in your life? Well, essentially this is what Skinamarink is all about.

Skinamarink follows the story of two children as they experience the fear of their own home. It is a story which looks at the spookiness in the shadows, the horror in the hallway, and the eerie echoes that go unexplained.

There is a touch more to it, but in essence this is what the film is. It is a movie about a child’s fear of the dark, and what that looks and feels like.

Image: ©Shudder

From a technical point of view, Skinamarink achieves what it sets out to do very well. Thanks to a grainy aesthetic, muffled sound, and the camera lowered to a child’s perspective, it delivers an unnerving, claustrophobic experience, with occasional scary moments.

It is a film which wants to create a sense of fear through familiarity, and this is something that it gets right very quickly. I imagine it will attract some audiences with this concept alone, and they will remain invested in its dark material.

But in terms of this film being anything other than one idea stretched out to the Nth degree, I’m not so sure. While Skinamarink is very effective in the atmosphere department, it is severely lacking in other areas.

The whole thing is centred around one idea, and not much more. And while writer/director Ball proves he can pull this idea off in the visual department, he then fails to do anything with it.

Sure, watching this movie took me right back to being a kid, and I could connect with the same sense of fear and dread that I had as a frightened 7-year-old, but is that it? Where is the story?

A successful film needs to be more than just one idea; it needs to go somewhere. Nailing the atmosphere is great, but this is a small part of a picture – it should not be the only selling point.

Ball had me for about 20 minutes, but then lost me over the remaining 80 minutes. He lost me because the film did the same thing over, and over again, with no real pay-off.  

Even if you possess all the patience in the world (which you may need), and are willing to stick it out to the very end, there is little reward. The film is a slog-and-a-half, and however way you cut it, it simply didn’t work for me.

Image: ©Shudder

Skinamarink is based on a short, and ultimately, I believe this is where it should have stayed. It plays out like a student film, with Ball demonstrating he can deliver effective techniques, but that’s about it.

I like horror movies, and I like being scared, but I need much more than what Skinamarink offers. If I’m being asked to return to childhood, to relive past fears, then make the trip worthwhile.

Unfortunately, this film doesn’t feel worthwhile, it feels like a tedious exercise. I won’t deny its ability to make its audience feel uneasy, or some of its immersive qualities, but I also won’t overlook its lack of substance and depth.

While I am aware this film is currently benefitting from some positive word of mouth, and I expect some horror fans will warm to its presentation and attempts to chill, it is a misfire for me. The film asks too much goodwill from its audience, without paying back enough of that goodwill at a later date, and it all feels a bit empty.


Thank you for taking the time to read this review on It’s A Stampede!. For more reviews, check out the recommended reads below.