Set in 1995, when Ball was 4 years old, the film embraces an earlier aesthetic with grainy footage and lo-fi sound. Two children find themselves — maybe alone — in their house where doors and windows have disappeared. Spookiness ensues.
The feature-length film, completed on a beyond-shoestring budget of $15,000, features little dialogue and rare shots of full bodies — feet and legs are often all that’s exposed. The camera moves through the house at odd angles, lingering on the tops of doorways or piles of toys at eye level on the floor. Like the children, the viewer searches the still darkness for something unknown but obviously present.
Skinamarink is a logical debut movie for Ball, who got his start in filmmaking with his YouTube channel, Bitesized Nightmares, where he created short videos based on users’ nighttime scares. Over time, he noticed a recurring theme; people frequently have nightmares about being a child, 6 to 10 years old, home alone with a monster. Having had this nightmare himself, he felt a universality in the idea and wanted to expand on it.
The film’s release hasn’t been without controversy. It debuted last summer at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal and appeared in several other festivals, at times via online screeners. A technical issue with a web platform left the film vulnerable to pirating, and it was rapidly downloaded and shared. While the reception was broadly positive on social media, the snafu resulted in a theatrical release eight months prior to its planned ahead of Halloween this year, instead hitting theatres this Friday the 13th, 2022.