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I’m caught between minds about Skinamarink, this experimental directorial feature debut from Kyle Edward Ball. In part it leans heavily into minimalism to explore the finest examples of terror through the eyes of two children, who wake up in the night to find their father missing and strange things happening around the house. The fact that we never see the children, nor their father, with Ball stripping the viewing experience down to its bare bones and denying the audience a window into the depth of the film. Instead, the idea is to focus on the empty space, a phrase coined by theatre director Peter Brook, for his book of the same name. In it he expresses, “I can take any empty space and call it a bare stage. A man walks across this empty space whilst someone else is watching him, and this is all that is needed for an act of theatre to be engaged”.

If we take this aspect or perspective and that the space is merely a place that means nothing until something enters its domain, then it bodes to mention that Ball is willing to explore a similar concept within the location or setting of his movie. If the space is a vessel in which spirits or beings pass through, then we surely can’t connect with the space until something or someone interacts within it.

As such, the viewer is poised through endless frames of emptiness, only to be treated with nuggets of movement or sound to stimulate our senses and push the boundaries of fear.

In reality however, these absences of action only switch off our interests, and slowly the audience will struggle to remain captivated. Is this the fault of the director though, when we as a society have become so engrained in action on screen, that to take this away or prevent us from this engagement, speaks volumes about how we interact with life. If we take note of the smallest of intricacies, then and only then can we really acknowledge the beauty that surrounds us?

The question though is, Is Horror the right genre to explore such an abstract playing field? Sure, Horror has been known to be forgiving, but when it comes at the cost of engaging with the audience, then you are left pondering its purpose.

The Prognosis:

While I applaud (Director) Ball for a bold approach to filmmaking which at times is reminiscent of The Beatles own exploration of music in Revolution No. 9, the outcome is all too repetitive and a struggle to connect with. It’s hard to believe that the content has been stretched to feature length when a short would probably have sufficed, Having said that though, his experimentation would not have been explored without pushing the boundaries of time.

It’s hard as a viewer to go beyond the limits of conception when we are being forced to observe its formulation. What constitutes horror and is it enough to hint without explanation? A question that may frustrate most who come to watch.

  • Saul Muerte

Skinamarink is currently streaming on ShudderANZ.