A Viral Horror Movie That Earned 100x Its Budget Is Available On Streaming Right Now

Where does this rank on your list of horror movies?

by Rob Sperduto
Image: IFC Films, BayView Entertainment

One particular streamer has quietly been growing an impressive catalog of originals, and if you’re a horror fan then you already know about Shudder. The streamer, dedicated to all things horror and the supernatural, is available as a standalone subscription, but you might not know it’s also bundled with AMC+. Skinamarink is the latest Shudder exclusive, and despite the indie horror’s shoestring budget, it’s been reducing audiences to their earliest childhood nightmares.

Skinamarink follows a basic premise: two siblings are roused awake in the middle of the night to discover their father is missing, and all the windows and doors have vanished. You guessed it, there’s an unknown boogeyman lurking in the shadows, too. But it’s the experimental lo-fi filmmaking that evokes pure terror. Like Paranormal Activity and The Blair Witch Project, Skinamarink employs the found-footage style, albeit with panning shots that seem to last for eternity and a special emphasis on darkness. Replete with creepy cartoons, distorted imagery, and sparingly used dialogue, it’s a total assault on the senses.

It’s the type of film that transports us back to being a child sprinting up the stairs to escape the unknown terrors chasing after us. “Are you afraid of the dark?” has arguably never been explored quite so viscerally, which was the goal of Canadian director Kyle Edward Ball.

Ball shot Skinamarink in his childhood home on a $15,000 budget. The writer/director planted his roots by uploading scary short films on his YouTube channel, called Bitesized Nightmares. Skinamarink was expanded upon from Heck, a 30-minute short film that served as proof of concept for the feature. Since then, Skinamarink premiered at the 26th Fantasia Film Festival in July 2022 and benefited from viral marketing after word-of-mouth spread across TikTok, Twitter, and other social media. The film received a limited theatrical run in mid-January 2023, smashing 1 million at the box office. Since then it’s earned well over 100 times its budget in what’s considered a huge victory for indie filmmaking.

So, Why is Skinamarink So Polarizing?

Skinamarink’s untraditional narrative certainly isn’t for everyone. Despite the buzz, it’s the type of horror film that exists on the love-it-or-hate-it spectrum. The majority of the film expects the viewer to fill in the blanks and if you can’t buy into its premise, then it’s a dud on arrival.

Skinamarink is assigned a 3.1 out of 5 rating on Letterboxd, a 71% Tomatometer and 43% Audience Score on Rotten Tomatoes. But aren’t these the best types of scores to argue with your friends?

If you couldn’t catch Skinamarink in theaters, though, watching it at home—lights off, sound turned on, and a healthy distance from the bedroom—is a just as effective setting. Just bring a blanket to shield yourself from the scary bits.

- This article was updated on February 2nd, 2023