Kyle Edward Ball started his film career by collecting nightmares.
“I have a YouTube channel where people comment with ghosts they’ve seen and I’ll recreate them,” he said. “The most shared concept was basically the same: ‘I’m between 6 and 10 years old.’ I’m at home. “My parents are either dead or missing and I have a threat to deal with.” I was curious because since then I had a vivid nightmare. I thought it was amazing that almost anyone had such a dream, so I wanted to look into this. I just ran with it and turned it into a movie.”
The result? “Skinamarink” is a micro-budget horror feature that has taken the internet by storm after a few major festival screenings. A perfect blend of traditional narrative and feature film, Skinamarink focuses more on atmosphere and sound design than actors or dense mythology. With visuals that combine the low-key style of David Lynch’s Inland Empire with the aesthetic of dusty ’70s family films shot from the attic, it’s a claustrophobic hallucination that fuses the scariest ideas from childhood into a dreamy, terrifying experience.
It was recently announced for a January theatrical release via IFC Midnight, and it will land on horror streaming service Shudder in 2023. But the production and release of the film so far has been a roller coaster ride for Ball.
The first problem? Ball, a first-time filmmaker, had to raise funds and was able to raise about $15,000, mostly through crowdfunding. From there, he was able to make every dollar count, from shooting for free in his childhood home in Edmonton, Canada, to borrowing equipment from the Alberta Film and Video Arts Society, a non-profit cooperative that helps independent filmmakers.
In fact, Ball and his co-director Joshua Bookhalter—who died in post-production and to whom the film is dedicated—used the budget to their advantage, using creative shots and staging to suggest only off-screen action and terror. . The result is a feature of unorthodox viewpoints and angles, influenced by the limitations of seeing the world through the eyes of the two central children and the unknown malevolence that spies on them.
Unlike previous micro-budget horror hits—like 1999’s The Blair Witch Project or 2007’s Paranormal Activity—Skinamarink isn’t at all found—not visuals or improvisation—together in the story editing department. carved. Ball’s film was fully scripted in advance, with shots carefully crafted to add depth and dread to exploit his limitations.
“I joke with people, ‘We did it for the price of a first-class car,'” Ball says.
The release of “Skinamarink” began after it was accepted into this year’s edition of the Canadian genre Fantasia International Film Festival. During the first screening, packed night, and post-screening Q&A, Ball realized for the first time that audiences could relate to his unconventional film.
After that, things got complicated. After five more festivals, Ball was thrilled to see word-of-mouth of Skinamarink, but unfortunately a technical snafu at one of the home screenings resulted in the film being pirated despite assurances from the platform. safe.
“I think people were under the impression that we didn’t have distribution and they were doing us a favor by pirating, but we had a plan,” Ball said.
As the pirated version spread, so did the visceral reactions hitting social media. More attention-grabbing concepts than big names and special effects and word-of-mouth have fueled the conversation for a genre. Many TikTokers have deemed it the scariest movie ever (one video with over 23,000 likes refers to it as the movie that “shook everyone on TikTok”); Reddit posts with angry headlines sparked heated debates (“Skinamarink scared me more than any other movie in at least a decade”); and breathless YouTube videos (“Tik Tok Tried To Warn Me About This Movie | Skinamarink”) pop up every day. Surprisingly, Skinamarink is 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 about the complications he faced as an artist who received praise from fans who pirated his film.
“Before he piracy, I would ‘like’ whoever talked about my film on Twitter,” he says. “If they did fan art, I would retweet it. It’s so cool that people make fan art! Being a pirate, it was difficult because no filmmaker wants that tsk tsk Someone who says, “Oh my God, I love your movie,” right? At the end of the day, I’m happy that someone saw my film and was touched by it. “Frankly, I’d rather they do it through more legal means because it affects me and the other people who helped the film.”
Jane Schoenbrun, director of the buzzy, low-budget horror film We’re All Going to the World’s Fair, which has sparked a lot of discussion online, agrees that Skinamarink is a uniquely scary piece of art.
“Perhaps this is the only cinematic experience that fully captures the unique sense of horror that many people my age feel as children on the Internet, reading scary stories or watching videos on the Internet that appear to be ‘cursed’. in the middle of the night,” says Schoenbrun. “After the whole world has gone to sleep, the liminality of reality can be an utterly terrifying experience, alone in your bedroom or house with the lights off. ‘Skinamarink’ is a film that is so attached to these feelings and tries to create an experience that distorts and disrupts reality for the audience.
Samuel Zimmerman, Shudder’s vice president of programming, explains why the film is a must-have for the service, which aims to bring members “the scariest, loneliest horror movies you can imagine.”
“‘Skinamarink’ is a distinct gem, a living nightmare that is one of the genre’s most exciting, disturbing new works,” says Zimmerman. “Truly, this is the best horror film like no other, heralding the arrival of a special new director.”
Next for Ball? He is currently working on two ideas, both of which sound like logical sequels to Skinamarink: One about the legend of the Pied Piper, and the other about three strangers who dream of the same house. He plans to start writing this winter and even begin shooting by the summer of 2023, and is excited to explore more of the dark corners of the genre, which allows him to have a voice even without a big budget.
“I believe that more humble people deserve a chance to make a film if their idea is good,” he said. “I also think it makes for a better product. If only rich people can make movies, it will obviously get old after a while. “I think having more voices from more parts of the world creates more interesting dialogue and makes for more interesting films in the long run.”