MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated
Director: Kyle Edward Ball
Starring: Jaime Hill, Lucas Paul, Ross Paul, Dali Rose Tetreault
Runtime: 1 hr 40 mins
What It Is: A normal house holds a normal family of two young children, Kevin and Kaylee, and their parents. One night, the children seek comfort in toys and television, when things begin changing around the house. Their parents become strangely unresponsive, or disappear altogether. Doors and windows change places, or also disappear. A deep voice ushers to them, messing with the television and moving their things about. It feeds on their fear and gullibility, playing with them as if they were its very own toys and indulging in surreal acts of disorientation and violence.
What We Think: A horror movie like this is like a great homemade meal. You know it was made with fresh ingredients straight from the source, and while it isn’t the richest or most highly-produced item, it still brings a sort of real satisfaction that proves to you that you don’t need much to make something amazing. It’s dizzying and familiar, reminding of what it’s like to be a helpless, small child who can do nothing other than feel fear and try to navigate through that fear. It’s an isolative situation, a nightmare that many of us face and discover as children, brought to life. The dreamlike presentation using the grainy yet personal filter of a 90s camcorder feels like an old memory, where faces are distorted, fuzzy, or overall missing. Events are jumbled and sudden and scattered. The house is shifts and changes; the children resort to their television to feel safe until it starts looping and relaying strange messages; all we and the children can do is stare, and try not to look behind us. The fear feels very real, in spite of its surreal nature.
It’s easy for anyone to criticize the simplicity of the delivery of the film, and that’s fine. I can enjoy a big-production horror like any other, your Hereditary‘s or Conjuring’s, but this new interpretation of child-driven / poltergeist horror is confidently brilliant. Its the ambiguity of its images, with or without context, are fantastic examples of liminal horror. Its implied scares and concepts are also quite scary to think about, especially from the perception of a kid. It’s a well-paced, quiet movie that I can see being elaborated or replicated, considering its now-viral success, but its re-pioneering of restraint and minimal scares are so eloquently delivered and deserved, I’m confident it will go down as a historically perfect liminal-horror film, reminding of other great creepy, moody, minimalistic movies such as We’re All Going to the World’s Fair, Blair Witch, Rorcharcht, and Sator.
Our Grade: A, A hypnotic, deceptively simple experimental, analog-inspired horror. Its scares are many; creeping sensations that border on terrifying without ever needing to jump the gun or be too on the nose. Its smart edits and minimalist, liminal imagery have a way of embedding themselves into your consciousness unlike most films of the genre. It takes its time, without ever being too slow, and forces you to pay attention in its quiet. I enjoyed this film, following a well-balanced restraint as it commits to diegesis, convincing in the evil nature of its mysterious antagonist and the fear felt by the small children it preys upon. I loved this movie, and I’m happy for its much-deserved growing cult status. I’m excited for whatever the filmmakers have coming next, and hope it feels just as twisted and real as Skinamarink, as well as continuing to inspire new artists and filmmakers to create with their own resources in light of the pressure films have today to have high production.