Skinarink (2022) Eye for Film Film Review
There’s a quality old worn Super-8 tape reminiscent of the experience of staring at a ceiling in a very dark but not quite dark room. Aware that there is something out there but unable to identify it correctly, the eyes continually focus and refocus, creating a dance of swirling colors and tiny patterns that appear and disappear as the brain tries to pick out shapes. defined. The experience of watching Kyle Edward Ball’s amazing debut film is similar. It’s not just the immediate effect on the eyes, which lingers throughout. It’s that right from the start we have the strange feeling that there is something there that we don’t quite see.
The effect is hypnotic, oddly soothing in the opening scenes, when Ball intermittently changes color palettes in a way that feels organic but tricks the brain into paying more attention and playing with its sense of rhythm. it is late at night. Children are supposed to be in bed. We see pieces of the house from strange angles: the corners of the ceilings, the lights, the electrical outlets, the textures of the carpeting, the round knob at the top of the railing, the panel doors that have been painted over and over. many times with gloss and never stripped and properly finished. The discarded lego stands out brilliantly. There are also cars, a little bear, a velvety snake with a sharp felt tongue, and those less certain odds and ends that children acquire and turn into toys. After a while you hear a dialed phone number (if you pay attention you can hear ‘555’). The caller, invisible but with a male voice, says Kevin fell down the stairs and hit his head, but he’s fine and they didn’t even need stitches.
It’s a rare bit of dialogue in a film whose audio aspect is composed mostly of silences with different textures. It is also a rare indication of the presence of an adult. Soon the only people awake are four-year-old Kevin and his sister Kaylee. We do not know her age, but she is very young. Something is wrong, but they can’t seem to get dad’s attention. They wonder why mom is crying. They do what kids do, dragging bedspreads downstairs so they can snuggle up and watch Felix the Cat cartoons on TV. A reassuring mix of old-school kids’ TV themes accompanies the flickering light, but the kids’ efforts to be practical only show how bad things are. They are curious to know where adults would be terrified. Touching a smooth wall, Kevin absently asks “Where did he go?” He speaks from a window.
With only the kids to help them figure out the situation, older viewers could easily get frustrated, but somehow Ball escapes that danger, providing just enough clues to keep the mystery going deeper. and make it even weirder. In one fell swoop, it tears apart the illusion we may have held about our point of view. There are nuances in James Tiptree Jr’s short story I’m Too Big But I Like To Play, and you might wonder about these cartoons and how they might be interpreted by something with a different frame of reference. In one, Felix watches a rabbit as it places a hat on its head and disappears, again and again.
Skinnamarink is an old song, a holdover from a now-forgotten comedy play from 1910. It’s not performed here, though you might give yourself an extra thrill listening to it afterwards. There is also Skinny Malinky, a character from a Scottish nursery rhyme, who went to the cinema but couldn’t find a place. No other cultural references come to mind, and no explanation of the title is ever given, but it does seem to have a Rumpelstiltskin quality to it, this suggestion that knowing the name of a thing offers some kind of power, a means of understand it. . In the dark, in the whirlwind of static electricity, you’ll find yourself searching for such snippets of knowledge, folklore seeming just as applicable as science, but even if you think you might manage to figure it out, it’s all too clear that a four-year-old can’t. If you are a parent, you will feel an urge to grab the kids and get them out of there. For other viewers, the fear will be purely personal. In any case, it does not let go.
Movies like this happen once in a generation. Skinnamarink is something quite distinct, consuming in its otherness, the warm, nostalgic quality of the home it depicts serving only as a trap. Of all the movies showing at Fantasia this year, it’s the hardest to forget – and late at night, when you’re lying in near-total darkness with your eyes open, you’ll give it a try.
Reviewed on: Jul 28, 2022