“Skinamarink” feels more significant than the similarly lo-fi “We’re All Going To The World’s Fair,” mainly because Schroenbrun’s film, though informed by its director’s experiences growing up with the internet, is a movie about the internet. “Skinamarink,” on the other hand, feels like a product of whatever collective consciousness has formed online. It’s not about how the internet has affected the world; it’s an example of it.
What’s more, unlike much of the analogue horror videos to which it’s so closely related, there’s no conceit on which “Skinamarink” relies. This isn’t strictly a found-footage film, nor is it supposed to be some sort of recently unearthed cursed TV broadcast. It’s just what it is—a liminal hypnagogic spasm of pure, unadulterated fear, painted with textures of ’90s nostalgia, emerging aesthetic movements, and experimental film.
“Skinamarink” obviously isn’t the first piece of media to experiment with these kinds of aesthetic and tonal choices, but it feels like the first to transcend more niche platforms and see remarkable success. And this is where it’s real-world destabilizing power comes in. The analogue horror movement, which makes similar use of darkly nostalgic imagery and themes, has thus far mostly been confined to serialized YouTube videos. Even something like Alan Reznick’s “This House Has People In It,” which gained significant attention for its deeply disturbing depiction of a family home descending into surreal, paranormal chaos, was distributed by Adult Swim. That’s a win for Reznick and for viewers, but it’s not an international theatrical distribution deal or $1 million made in a week. Which is why “Skinamarink” feels like the start of something bigger.