Recently, Shudder original Skinamarink has made its way to the streaming platform. With a meager budget of fifteen thousand dollars, Skinamarink has become a viral hit, making over 2 million dollars in its very limited theatrical run. The basis of the story surrounds two young children that awaken to discover their parents are nowhere to be found, and all of the doors and windows are missing—but the film is about so much more than that.
WARNING: SPOILERS AND CONTENT WARNING AHEAD
What Happens in Skinamarink?
In order to interpret Skinamarink, we have to establish events within the film. We’re going to explore heavy spoiler territory, but we’ll also focus on the key moments. The movie begins with 4-year-old Kevin and 6-year-old Kaylee waking up in the middle of the night to discover their parents are missing and all of the windows and exterior doors have vanished. They decide to go downstairs to sleep in the living room while watching cartoons.
At one point, Kaylee hears a creepy voice calling her to come upstairs. She follows the voice into her parents’ room to discover her father sitting on the edge of the bed. He tells her to look under the bed, but nothing is there. She looks up to see their mother sitting in the same position on the other side of the bed. Her mother then proceeds to tell her she loves both children very much but needs Kaylee to close her eyes. The camera goes dark, and when it comes back the mother is gone. We begin to hear bones cracking while the mother is heard crying.
Kaylee runs back downstairs and asks Kevin to help her block the hallway with the couch. Clearly distraught, they begin watching cartoons again as they fall asleep. At this point, Kevin wakes up to see Kaylee missing and hears the voice telling him to come to the basement. He proceeds down to the basement and hears Kaylee saying she doesn’t feel good. It’s at this point we get what is the closest thing to a jump scare in the movie. Kaylee’s face appears in the darkness, but it’s missing eyes and a mouth. Kevin runs back upstairs, terrified.
We can skip a few of the details and jump to the point that Kevin is led by the voice to wander the house with a flashlight. He does so because the voice warns him that when Kaylee didn’t want to play it took her mouth. However it’s revealed he is walking on the ceiling. He is led to the kitchen where he is told to take a knife and place it in his eye, which he does. We get a confirmation that over 500 days have passed with Kevin locked in this house as we get a look at a long hallway as it fades out. The final scene shows a dark closet. The camera begins to slowly zoom in, and we get a look at another featureless face. Kevin asks its name to no response before the credits roll.
What Does It All Mean?
Skinamarink is a very experimental, artistic, and atmospheric film, choosing to never get a good look at any of the characters, instead focusing on awkward angles and dread building. However, there is a lot to unwrap in this seemingly simple film.
After careful consideration, my interpretation of the film is that it is an allegory for child abuse. There are many key factors mentioned in the above scenes that can clearly be representative of the trauma of dealing with abuse from the point of view of a child.
To unwrap this deeper meaning, let’s start with the fact that the doors and windows have disappeared. Home is supposed to be a safe space for children. The place where a child can feel the most secure, taken care of, and generally safe. The walls and windows vanishing represents the safe space becoming an inescapable prison. A place where the victim feels trapped with no known way out.
This leads to the scene in which Kaylee is called upstairs by a strange voice and finds her parents acting incredibly odd. It’s indicative of a child no longer recognizing the people they once held so dear and trusted. This is reinforced by the mother letting Kaylee know they love her but telling her to close her eyes. Then, of course, there’s the sobbing and bones cracking in the darkness.
The parents originally completely missing from the picture shows that when a parent becomes abusive, the other parent dedicates a large amount of time trying to “fix them.” This also leads to the kids being so close due to only having each other at this point.
Finally we look at Kevin’s last run of the film. The being coaxed into stabbing himself in the eye represents victim blaming. Abusers regularly convince the victim that what is happening is their fault. The scene of him walking on the ceiling is a thinly veiled metaphor for the world turning upside down. Lastly, the long hallway and 500 plus days show that it feels like an endless cycle being stuck in an abusive household.
Skinamarink is currently available to stream on Shudder.