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A chilling still of the CRT TV featured heavily throughout the film.

Skinamarink (2022) and the Dilemma of Analog Horror

4/5

Do you remember the first time you felt genuine fear as a child? The first time you were scared to go down a dark hallway in your home because something might be in the shadows waiting for you. With his divisive and experimental debut into directing, Kyle Edward Ball perfectly captures that feeling and uses it to turn our own nostalgia against us. Skinamarink (2022) is a film like no other and it poses an important question for the horror community: Is Internet horror a crucial pillar of the horror genre, or does it only deserve recognition once it makes it to the silver screen?

In This House

Taking place in 1995, Skinamarink opens very low to the ground, as we watch a brother and sister, Kevin and Kaylee, in the hallway of their home. Where another film might establish the innocent faces of its two young protagonists, Kyle Edward Ball chooses to only show us the children’s legs and feet as they move throughout the hallway. As the children play, the camera explores their home, showing us dark hallways, imposing doorways, and shadowy corners.

Between the overwhelming darkness of the house and the low angle of the camera, the audience can’t help but feel that they are once again children, and with this nostalgia we get the return of childish fears. As the night progresses, Kevin, the youngest of the two siblings, can be heard speaking with a mysterious, unseen figure before falling down the stairs and filling the house with his cries. Here we get our first glimpse of the presence lurking in this house and the torment Kevin, and Kaylee are about to be put through. 

Some time later, Kevin is awoken by a loud noise, and he goes to investigate the noise with his sister, and eventually the two discover that not only is their father gone, but all of the doors and windows in the house have mysteriously disappeared. Soon, other objects begin to go missing from the house and furniture, such as a dining room chair, end up stuck to the walls and ceiling.

As a malevolent presence makes itself known throughout the house and uses its reality bending powers to warp Kevin and Kaylee’s world, the audience is left to simply watch in sheer anxiety and horror as the two children suffer through terrors unimaginable. 

Skinamarink (2022) - A chilling still of the CRT TV featured heavily throughout the film.
A chilling still of the CRT TV featured heavily throughout the film.

Welcome to Analog Horror

For horror fans who haven’t spent much time on YouTube, the term ‘Analog Horror’ is very likely brand new. Analog Horror is a sub-genre that has only recently been defined, and as the name implies, it focuses its stories and scares around analog mediums like VHS tapes, film, CRT Televisions, and old emergency broadcasts, which lends a distinct feeling of realism to the content. Analog Horror largely originates with Local 58, a YouTube Series which took on the form of old news broadcasts.

The episode of Local 58 that captures the real heart of the Analog Horror genre is titled Weather Service, and it sows the seeds for a hauntingly Lovecraftian story centered around the moon. The exact plot of the series is very much left up to audiences to piece together and discover, and with the plot not being set in stone, viewers were able to work together to pick the videos apart and theorize what the real story might be. This level of viewer engagement really helped Local 58 explode in popularity, and has since become a core staple of the genre.  

Another absolute powerhouse of the Analog Horror genre is Alex Kister’s The Mandela Catalogue, which has not only managed to tell a compelling and unique story centered around religion, but it also has produced some of the most effective and distinctive body horror to ever be witnessed. The popularity of The Mandela Catalogue is unprecedented, with its first volume garnering 7.4 million views. Analog Horror has grown immensely over the past year, and it’s no surprise that the genre eventually made it to the big screen in the form of Skinamarink. 

A horrifying image from The Mandela Catalogue.
A horrifying image from The Mandela Catalogue.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Skinamarink’s Analog Horror roots are obvious, from the odd choice of angles, the VHS film grain, and the focus on old cartoons and a CRT TV. However, the influence of the genre is more than skin deep. As you’ll find in many of the film’s reviews, plenty of people came away from Kyle Edward Ball’s film feeling as though they hadn’t been told a complete story. Just like with Local 58 and The Mandela Catalogue, the plot of this one isn’t told in a standard format, leaving the audience with room to interpret what’s really going on.

While this is truly one of Skinamarink’s greatest strengths, for audience members who aren’t familiar with Analog Horror and are expecting a typical horror movie experience, this can come across as one of the film’s biggest flaws. In a similar vein, this film doesn’t rely on the modern horror movie “scare tactic” of building tension and briefly releasing it before startling the audience with a loud (often cheap) jumpscare. Instead the movie builds an unmatched atmosphere that never releases its hold on you.

The audience is left on the verge of a panic attack as the film crescendos without ever giving you a moment of release. While some may prefer a typical jumpscare, the unending anxiety of Skinamarink provides one of the most effective experiences in modern horror. 

Skinamarink (2022) - The entity within Skinamarink possesses reality-warping powers.
The entity within Skinamarink possesses reality-warping powers.

These are just some of the many “flaws” you’ll find mentioned in Skinamarink’s reviews that, when looked at in the context of Analog Horror, are actually what make the film so spectacular.

Thus, we’re brought back to the question posed earlier: Is internet horror only a valid pillar of the horror genre once it conquers the big screen? If we look at the history of horror, as technology has changed and adapted, so has horror. From terrifying myths passed around a campfire to bone-chilling video games, horror has always dominated every medium it was put to. Horror movies had to grow to the same esteem as the horror books that came before, and not that long ago, horror video games had to fight for prestige in the genre as well. 

We now find ourselves at a point where we have to accept that internet horror should be treated with the same respect and awe as other mediums without having to conform. Internet horror, and Analog Horror as an extension, works best when it doesn’t have to worry about the limitations of a movie theater and the expectations of general audiences. The sooner we as a community begin to give internet horror the same love we give to books, movies, TV, and video games, the sooner we open ourselves up to a world of grotesque and terrifying new stories to enjoy. 

There’s no denying that Skinamarink is divisive, with plenty labeling it a failed experiment that demands too much from its viewers, and there’s no guarantee that you won’t feel the same. However, I implore you to leave behind what you’ve been taught to expect from horror movies and open yourself to the ambitious experiment that is Skinamarink. Above all else, support weird movies, support analog horror, and support the creators that are trying to expand and enhance the genre we all love. 

Skinamarink (2022) and the Dilemma of Analog Horror - Malevolent Dark
Skinamarink1

Director: Kyle Edward Ball

Date Created: 1970-01-01 00:33

Editor's Rating:
4

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