Kyle Edward Ball began his career as a filmmaker by collecting nightmares.
“I have a YouTube channel where people comment on nightmares they’ve had and I would recreate them,” he says. “The most commonly shared was basically the same concept: ‘I’m between 6 and 10 years old. I’m at home. My parents are dead or missing, and I face a threat. This interested me because I also have a living nightmare from that time. I thought it was amazing that almost everyone seems to have this dream, so I wanted to explore this thing. I just ran with it and made a movie out of it.
The result? “Skinarink,” a micro-budget horror feature that’s been haunting the internet after a few key festival screenings. A clever mix of traditional storytelling and art film, “Skinamarink” is much more about atmosphere and sound design than about actors or dense mythology. With visuals that combine David Lynch’s low-fi style of “Inland Empire” with the aesthetics of dusty 70s family movies straight out of the attic, it’s a claustrophobic hallucination that mixes the scariest ideas of childhood in a dreamy and dreadful experience.
A theatrical release was recently announced for January via IFC Midnight, and it will find its way to horror streaming service Shudder later in 2023. But so far the film’s production and release has been mountains. coasters for Ball.
The first challenge? Ball, a fledgling filmmaker, needed to raise funds and was able to raise around $15,000, mostly through crowdfunding. From there, he was able to make every dollar count, from filming for free at his childhood home in Edmonton, Canada, to borrowing equipment from the Film and Video Arts Society of Alberta, a cooperative non-profit that helps independent filmmakers.
In fact, Ball and his assistant director Joshua Bookhalter – who died during post-production and to whom the film is dedicated – used the tight budget to their advantage, using creative shots and direction to imply movement and terror. just offscreen, out of sight. . The result is a feature composed of unconventional viewpoints and angles influenced by the limitations of seeing the world through the eyes of the two central children, and the unknown malevolence spying on them.
Unlike previous micro-budget horror hits – think 1999’s “The Blair Witch Project” or 2007’s “Paranormal Activity” – “Skinamarink” isn’t a found or improvised sequence, with a story etched together in the mounting bay. Ball’s film was entirely scripted in advance, with carefully composed shots to add depth and dread, in an effort to exploit its limitations.
“I joke with people, ‘We did it for the price of a premium used vehicle,'” Ball says.
The release of “Skinamarink” began when it was accepted into this year’s edition of the Fantasia International Film Festival in Canada. When the first screening was warmly received, with a late night full of Q&A after the screening, Ball realized for the first time that audiences could connect with his unconventional film.
After that, things got complicated. Ball was thrilled to see ‘Skinamarink’ word-of-mouth grow after five more festival slots, but unfortunately a technical glitch at one of the home screenings made the film available to pirate, despite assurances. of the platform that it would be safe.
“I think people felt like we didn’t have a distribution and they were doing us a favor by pirating, but we had a plan,” Ball says.
As the pirated version spread, the visceral reactions on social media also increased. For a genre where concepts and word-of-mouth get more attention than big names and special effects, the chatter sparked interest. Dozens of TikToks called it the scariest movie of all time (a video with over 23,000 likes refers to it as the movie that “traumatized everyone on TikTok”); Reddit posts with frenzied headlines sparked heated debates (“Skinarink just scared me more than any movie in at least a decade”); and breathless YouTube videos (“Tik Tok tried to warn me about this movie | Skinamarink”) popped up every day. Surprisingly, “Skinamarink” sits at number 12 on Letterboxd’s “50 Best Horror Movies of 2022” list, ahead of well-received box office fare like “The Black Phone” and “Bodies Bodies Bodies.”
Ball was candid when talking about the complications he faced as an artist receiving accolades from fans who pirated his film.
“Before it got hacked, on Twitter, when someone was talking about my movie, I liked it,” he says. “If they were doing fan art, I would retweet it. It’s so cool that people make fan art! Since it was hacked, it’s difficult, because no filmmaker wants TTT … TTT someone who says “Oh my God, I love your movie”, right? In the end, I’m glad someone saw my film and touched it. Obviously, I would have preferred them to see it through more legitimate means, because it affects me and it affects the other people who helped with the film.
Jane Schoenbrun, director of the low-budget horror film “We’re All Going to the World’s Fair,” which also sparked a lot of discussion online, agrees that “Skinamarink” is a particularly creepy work of art.
“It was perhaps the only cinematic experience I’ve ever had that fully captured a unique sense of dread that I think a lot of people in my age range experienced as kids online, reading scary stories or watching seemingly ‘cursed’ videos on the internet in the middle of the night,” Schoenbrun says. “Once the whole world has fallen asleep, the liminality of reality can be a downright terrifying experience. alone in your room or with the lights off in your house. ‘Skinarink’ is a film that so fiercely engages with that sentiment and tries to create an experience for viewers that unsettles and shatters reality.
Samuel Zimmerman, vice president of programming for Shudder, explains why the film was a must-watch for the service, which aims to bring members “the scariest, most singular horror movies imaginable.”
“‘Skinarink’ is a distinct gem, a living nightmare that ranks among the genre’s most exciting and disturbing new works,” says Zimmerman. “Really, it’s the best kind of horror film, like no other, that heralds the arrival of a special new filmmaker.”
The next step for Ball? He’s currently working on two ideas that both look like a logical extension of “Skinamarink”: one is a version of the legend of the Pied Piper, the other about three strangers who all see the same house in a dream. He plans to write this winter and possibly even start filming by summer 2023, and is excited to explore darker corners in a genre that has allowed him to have a voice even without a budget. huge.
“I believe that people who come from more modest backgrounds deserve to make a film if their idea is good,” he says. “I also think it makes a better product. If only the rich manage to make films, obviously it will become obsolete after a while. I think having more voices from more corners of the world creates more interesting dialogue and makes movies more interesting in the long run.
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