The little low-budgeted things that go bump in the night.
Last weekend, “M3gan” took in over $30 million at the domestic box office, either because of the good reviews or it’s a Sci-Fi-horror comedy with a PG-13. I’ve been hearing that kids have been disruptive during a few shows, and every time a theater manager sent an employee in to check, the kids act like Michigan J. Frog when he only croaks in front of other people. Mainstream horror films can cause these kind of problems, whether us critics like them or not.
Elevated horror films, on the other hand, are for audiences who deserve a break from the unacceptable behaviors. “Skinamarink” is one of them, and it’s said to take place in 1995, but has the look, feel, and budget of a 60s-70s film. $15,000 is the budget, and it can only afford to use digital cameras, classic cartoons on TV, and shots of Legos, furniture, ceilings, and barely any people. Most of the time, we hear them offscreen, and they don’t act like jumpscare characters. They don’t even act like the little girl in “M3gan.”
Writer/director Kyle Edward Ball makes his directorial debut, by admitting he was influenced by the likes of Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch, Chantal Ackerman, Stan Brakhage, and Maya Deren, as well as the filming techniques of the 1967 short film “Wavelength” and the 1974 horror film “Black Christmas.” He even films the movie in his own childhood home in Edmonton, Canada. He might be on to something if he starts off with a horror film that represents some childhood fears, but he doesn’t rush into things. He just lets the budget slide its way through the evils the story wants to convince us of.
The budget of the film also features a shot of a toilet in one scene, and disappears in the next shot. Instead of CGI effects and the water spraying all over the bathroom, these two shots are edited together. Other scenes feature legos being shoved over, and demon voices that sound like distorted audio recorders. And the screen with the 1939 Looney Tunes short “Prest-O Change-O” replays the scene when the rabbit makes himself disappear in front of the dog over and over again.
The two (mostly) off-screen kids are 6-year-old Kaylee (Dali Rose Tetreault) and 4-year-old Kevin (Lucas Paul), whose parents (Ross Paul and Jaime Hill) suddenly vanish. They both wonder where they are and why the doors and windows have also disappeared, but they don’t go freaking out like most kids would. There are some breathing and crying sounds, but nothing a generic movie-goer would understand. In fact, “Skinamarink” cares about the little things that go bump in the night. Jumpscares and elevated horror films speak different languages to different audiences.
I’d be lying if I understood and could see everything in the dark, and it’s mostly in the dark, but I’m telling the truth that “Skinamarink” reminded me, in a way, of how “Paranormal Activity” reinvented the found-footage horror film genre. This isn’t a found footage film, but these little things are taking their times to take us to real terrors of this movie. IFC Midnight, which distributes this film, should help give Kyle Edward Ball a boost if he wants to push himself to new limits. For now, let’s see where these shots of objects and ceilings take us. And if Kevin can speak to these voices, then we’re screwed.