Fantasia 2022 Interview: ‘Skinamarink’ Director Kyle Edward Ball
Skinamarink is like a waking nightmare. A film that feels like it’s transported into your life as a cursed VHS tape, it teases the audience with sparse visuals, creepy whispers, and vintage visions that are delightfully unnerving.
It’s an experimental horror film — not quite the straight narrative most viewers will be used to — but with the right environment (headphones in a dark room), you’ll be transported to a dreamscape drenched in atmosphere.
In the film, two children wake up in the middle of the night to find their father is missing, and all windows and doors in their home have vanished. While they decide to wait for the grown-ups to return, they realize they’re not alone, and a voice that sounds like a child beckons them.
I spoke with Skinamarink‘s writer/director Kyle Edward Ball about the film, making nightmares, and how exactly he crafted his first feature.
Kelly McNeely: I understand that you’ve got the YouTube channel, of course, and that you sort of developed Skinamarink from your short film, Heck. Can you talk a little bit about the decision to develop that into a feature length film and what that process was like? I understand you did some crowdfunding as well.
Kyle Edward Ball: Yeah, for sure. So basically, a few years ago I wanted to do a feature length film, but thought I should probably test out my style, my idea, the concept, my feelings, on something less ambitious like a short film. So I did Heck,I liked the way it turned out. I submitted it to a few festivals, including Fantasia, it didn’t get in. But, regardless it was successful to me, I felt the experiment worked and I could print it into a feature.
So earlier on in the pandemic, I said, okay I’m going to try this out, maybe start writing. And I wrote a script over a few months. Then shortly thereafter, started applying for grants, etc. Didn’t get any of the grants, so transitioned into crowdfunding. I have a very close friend who had successfully crowdfunded before, his name’s Anthony, he did a fairly well respected documentary called The Line for Telus Story Hive. And so he helped me through that.
Successfully crowdfunded enough money, and when I say crowdfund, like, from the get go, I knew it was going to be micro budget, right? I wrote everything to work within a tiny, tiny, tiny budget, one location, blah, blah, blah. Successfully crowdfunded, assembled a very small working group, just me, my DOP and my assistant director, and the rest is history.
Kelly McNeely: And how did you make your way into that specific style of filmmaking? It’s that sort of experimental style, it’s not something you see very often. What brought you to that stylistic method?
Kyle Edward Ball: It happened by accident. So before Heck and everything, I started a YouTube channel called Bitesized Nightmares. And the concept was, people would comment with nightmares they’ve had, and I’d recreate them.
I’ve always been attracted to an older style of filmmaking. So 70s, 60s, 50s, going back all the way to Universal Horror, and I’ve always thought, I wish I could make movies that looked and felt like that.
Also, during the progression of my YouTube series, because I can’t hire professional actors, I can’t do this, I can’t do that, I had to do a lot of tricks as far as implying action, implying presence, POV, to tell a story with no cast. Or even sometimes, not the appropriate set, not the appropriate props, etc.
And it kind of morphed over time, developed a little bit of a cult following – and when I say cult following, like just a couple of fans who have watched the videos over time – and discovered I really liked it. There’s a certain uncanniness to not necessarily showing everything, and transitioned that into stuff like Skinamarink.
Kelly McNeely: It kind of reminds me a little bit of House of Leaves that type of vibe –
Kyle Edward Ball: Yes! You’re not the first person to bring that up. And I’ve actually never read House of Leaves. I know what it’s vaguely about, the house is bigger inside than outside, blah blah blah. Right. But um, yeah, lots of people have brought that up. I really should read it at some point [laughs].
Kelly McNeely: It’s a wild read. It takes you on a bit of a journey, because even just the way you read it, you have to like turn the book around and sort of jump back and forth. It’s pretty neat. I think you’d enjoy it. I like that you’ve mentioned childhood nightmares and nightmares in particular, disappearing doorways etc. How did you accomplish that on a micro budget? Where was it filmed and how did you make all that happen?
Kyle Edward Ball: I had been experimenting with rudimentary special effects when I was doing my YouTube series. And I had also kind of learned a trick where if you put enough grain on stuff, it hides a lot of imperfection. Which is why a lot of older special effects – like matte paintings and stuff – they read well, because it’s kind of grainy, right?
So I had always wanted to film in the house I grew up in, my parents still live there, so I was able to get them to agree to shoot there. They were more than supportive. I hired the cast to do it on a fairly low budget. The girl who plays Kaylee is actually, I think, kind of technically my god daughter. She’s my friend Emma’s child.
So another thing too, we didn’t record any sound in the moment. So all the dialogue you hear in the movie was the actors sitting down in my parents living room, talking into ADR. So there were just a bunch of little tricks we did to do it on a super low budget. And it all kind of paid off and actually kind of elevated the medium.
We shot it over seven days, we only had the actors on set for one day. So everything you see that involves either the actors talking or on screen, that was all shot in one day, with the exception of the actress Jamie Hill, who plays the mother. She was shot and recorded over like, I think a three four hour period on the fourth day. She didn’t even interact with the other actors.
Kelly McNeely: And I like that it’s a story that is kind of told through sound, just because of the way that it’s presented and the way that it’s filmed. And the sound design is incredible. I was watching it with headphones on, which I think is probably the best way to appreciate it, with all the whispering. Can you talk a little bit about the sound design process and again, telling a story solely through sound, essentially?
Kyle Edward Ball: So from the get go, I wanted sound to be important. Through my YouTube channel, playing with sound is one of my more favorite things. I wanted it very specifically to not just look like a movie from the 70s, I wanted it to actually sound like it. The movie House of the Devil by Ti West, it looks like a 70s movie, right? But I always thought oh, this sounds too clean.
So all the audio we have for dialogue was recorded clean. But then I dirtied it up. I spoke with my friend Tom Brent about okay, how do I make this sound like audio from the 70s? He kind of showed me a few tricks. It’s fairly simple. Then, as far as a lot of the sound effects, I actually found a treasure trove of public domain sound effects that were recorded in I think the 50s and 60s that have been used ad nauseam and have that tinny feel.
On top of that I underlaid basically the entire movie with hiss and hum, and played with it too, so when it cuts different scenes, there’s a little bit less hiss, little bit less hum. I think I actually spent way more time on the sound than I did on actually cutting the movie. So yeah, in a nutshell, that’s how I achieve the sound.
Another thing too, I basically mixed it in mono, it’s not a surround. It’s basically dual mono, there’s no stereo or anything in it. And I think it kind of takes you into the era, right? Because the 70s I don’t know if stereo really started until the late 60s. I’d have to look it up.
Kelly McNeely: I love the public domain cartoons that are used as well, because they’re so creepy. They build atmosphere in such a great way. The atmosphere really does a lot of the heavy lifting in this film, what’s the secret to building that creepy atmosphere? Because that’s kind of the main chilling point of then film.
Kyle Edward Ball: Um, so I have a lot of weaknesses as a filmmaker. Like a lot of them. I would say that in a lot of ways, I’m fairly incompetent, but my big big strength that I’ve always had is atmosphere. And I don’t know, I know how to swing it. I’m really good at the, here’s what you look at, here’s how you grade it, here’s how you make a sound. Here’s how you do this to make someone feel something, right. So I don’t know how, it’s just kind of intrinsic to me.
My movies are all atmosphere induced. It really just comes down to grain, feeling, emotion, and attention. The big thing is attention to detail. Even in the actors’ voices, most of the lines are recorded in whispers; that wasn’t an accident. That’s in the original script. And that was because I knew that would just make it feel different, if they’re whispering the whole time.
Kelly McNeely: I like the use of subtitles to go along with it too, and the selective use of subtitles. You know, they’re not present through the whole thing. That adds to the atmosphere. How did you decide what would have subtitles and what wouldn’t? And also, there’s parts of it that have subtitles, but no sound.
Kyle Edward Ball: So the subtitles thing, it does appear in the original script, but which audio was in subtitle and what wasn’t has evolved over time. Originally, I liked the idea of it for two reasons. One is there’s this new horror movement on the Internet called analog horror, which incorporates a lot of text. And I’ve always found it creepy and unnerving and very matter of fact.
If you ever see, like this stupid Discovery documentary where they recount a 911 call, but there’s text of it, and you can’t really make out what they’re saying. It’s creepy, right? I also wanted parts where you could hear people enough to understand that someone was whispering, but you couldn’t understand what they were saying. But I still wanted people to understand what they were saying.
And then finally, the person who recorded the audio is my good friend, Joshua Bookhalter, he was my assistant director. And unfortunately, he passed shortly after the filming had commenced. And there’s a few pieces of audio that I probably could have recreated that didn’t quite fit. So either the audio didn’t fit or probably needed to be re-recorded. But instead of re-recording it, I really wanted to just use Josh’s audio as a memoriam to him, so I just put subtitles. So there’s a few reasons.
Kelly McNeely: And for the creation of this Skinamarink monster, first off, I’m assuming that’s a Sharon, Lois and Bram reference?
Kyle Edward Ball: So that’s how I came to know it, and I think how most Canadians anywhere from Gen X all the way to Gen Z kind of knew about them. So it is a reference to that. But in the same vein, the movie’s not associated with that [laughs].
The reason I came to that, is I was watching, I think it was a Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. And there’s kids in the movie singing it, and I had always just assumed they had invented it. And then I looked it up and it turns out, it’s like an older song from the turn of the century from some musical, which means public domain, right?
So the word kind of sticks in your head like an ear worm. And I’m just like, okay, it’s personal to me, sentimental to a lot of people, it’s a nonsense word, and it also is vaguely creepy. I’m like, [checks a bunch of invisible boxes] this is my working title. And then the working title just became the title.
Kelly McNeely: I love that. Because yeah, it does sound vaguely sinister in its own cheerful way. So what’s next for you?
Kyle Edward Ball: So later on this year, I’ll start writing another script. We’re probably going to be playing at a few other film festivals in Europe, which we’ll be announcing at some point, then hopefully theatrical distribution and streaming. And then while that’s going on, I always find I write best when it’s winter or autumn, so I’ll probably start writing around September or October, the follow up.
I’m undecided on what movie I’m gonna do. I would like to stick with filming an old style movie today kind of motif. So I’ve got it down to three movies. The first one is a Universal Monster style 1930s horror movie about the Pied Piper. The second would be a 1950s science fiction movie, alien abduction, but with a little bit more Douglas Sirk. Although now I’m thinking, maybe we’re too soon to Nope coming out for that. Maybe I should put that on the shelf for a little bit, maybe a few years down the line.
And then the third one is another kind of more similar to Skinamarink, but a little bit more ambitious, 1960s technicolor horror movie called The Backward House where three people visit a house in their dream. And then horror ensues.
Skinamarink is part of Fantasia International Film Festival‘s 2022 lineup. You can check out the super creepy poster below!
For more on Fantasia 2022, check out our review of Australian social influencer horror Sissy, or the cosmic horror slapstick comedy Glorious.
Shudder Gives Us Something to Scream about in April 2023
The first quarter of 2023 is over, but Shudder is just picking up steam with a brand new slate of films coming to their already impressive catalogue! From obscurities to fan favorites, there’s something here for everyone. Check out the full calendar of relase below, and let us know what you’ll be watching when April rolls around.
Shudder Calendar 2023
The Slumber Party Massacre: A female high school student’s slumber party turns into a bloodbath, as a newly escaped psychotic serial killer wielding a power drill prowls her neighborhood.
Magic: A ventriloquist is at the mercy of his vicious dummy while he tries to renew a romance with his high school sweetheart.
Don’t Panic: On his 17th birthday, a boy named Michael has a surprise party thrown by his friends, where a session with a Ouija board accidentally unleashes a demon named Virgil, who possesses one of them to go on a killing spree. Michael, now plagued by violent nightmares and premonitions, sets out to try and stop the killings.
Slasher: Ripper: The new series on Shudder takes the franchise back in time to the late 19th century and follows Basil Garvey (McCormack), a charismatic tycoon whose success is only rivaled by his ruthlessness, as he oversees a city on the cusp of a new century, and a social upheaval that will see its streets run red with blood. There’s a killer stalking the mean streets, but instead of targeting the poor and downtrodden like Jack the Ripper, The Widow is meting out justice against the rich and powerful. The only person standing in the way of this killer is the newly promoted detective, Kenneth Rijkers, whose ironclad belief in justice may wind up being yet another victim of The Widow.
Bog: Dynamite fishing in a rural swamp revives a prehistoric gill monster that must have the blood of human females in order to survive.
Kids vs. Aliens: All Gary wants is to make awesome home movies with his best buds. All his older sister Samantha wants is to hang with the cool kids. When their parents head out of town one Halloween weekend, an alltime rager of a teen house party turns to terror when aliens attack, forcing the siblings to band together to survive the night.
Final Exam: In a small college in North Carolina, only a select few students are left to take mid terms. But, when a killer strikes, it could be everyone’s final exam.
Primal Rage: A baboon escapes from a Florida campus lab and starts spreading something bad with a bite.
Darklands: A reporter investigates ritual profanations and finds himself involved with a Druidic cult.
From Black: A young mother, crushed by guilt after the disappearance of her young son 5 years previously, is presented with a bizarre offer to learn the truth and set things right. But how far is she willing to go, and is she willing to pay the terrifying price for a chance to hold her boy again?
The Twist! ‘Knock at the Cabin’ Gets Unexpected Streaming Date
Averaging about six weeks from screen to streamer, movies are finding a new template for the lifespan of a film. For instance, the ice has barely melted in your soda from your theatrical viewing of Cocaine Bear and now you can rent it on VOD only a few weeks later. It’s insane!
That doesn’t even include streamers such as Peacock and Paramount+ who offer their studio-owned properties to subscribers at no added cost just a few weeks after the cinema premiere. It’s a new age!
The recent surprise is M. Night Shyamalan’s latest mystery Knock at the Cabin which opened theatrically on February 3. The movie was available on VOD just three weeks later. NBC Universal sent out an announcement today that the movie, starring Dave Bautista, will stream on Peacock starting March 24.
The film will also be available to own digitally March 24, and on Blu-ray™ and DVD May 9.
But, if you have Peacock enjoy the show for free with the price of your subscription which is about the same as renting the movie online— not sponsored, not affiliated!
Besides Bautista, the movie stars Tony Award® winner Jonathan Groff (Hamilton), Ben Aldridge (Pennyworth, Fleabag), BAFTA nominee Nikki Amuka-Bird (NW), newcomer Kristen Cui, Abby Quinn (Little Women, Landline) and Rupert Grint (Servant, Harry Potter franchise).
While vacationing at a remote cabin, a young girl and her parents are taken hostage by four armed strangers who demand that the family make an unthinkable choice to avert the apocalypse. With limited access to the outside world, the family must decide what they believe before all is lost.
Announcement of a ‘Faces of Death’ Remake is a Head-Scratcher
In perhaps one of the weirdest genre news stories to come out since we first reported on it two years ago, The Hollywood Reporter announced Barbie Ferreira (Euphoria) and Dacre Montgomery (Stranger Things) will star in a Faces of Death remake.
For those who don’t have the number 19 at the start of their birth year, and may not know what Faces of Death is about, it is a “found-footage” documentary of people and animals dying in a myriad of horrific ways. All apparently non-produced and real. We know now that was a false claim and most of the material was (effectively) manufactured
About eight years ago iHorror talked to Michael R. Felsher, owner, and founder of Red Shirt Pictures, a production company that provides documentaries, director commentary, and bonus content for DVD and Blu-Ray distributors. He went into detail about his experiences with Faces of Death and its director, Conan Le Cilaire (nee John A. Schwartz), who provides the commentary for the Blu-Ray edition.
“One of the things that I found really fascinating about [Faces of Death] was talking to both the special effects crew who worked on the movie and also the editor,” Felsher told iHorror at the time, “who had a really interesting task in that he had to blend stuff that existed at the time, and also sometimes create something out of whole cloth.”
What?! The footage isn’t entirely real? Gen-Xers were duped? For a period of time in the mom-and-pop video rental era, Faces of Death was one of those grails hidden behind the counter and only rented out if you were cool enough to be trusted by the cashier.
The content was so disturbing the film was banned in several countries. One famous triggering scene involves a monkey and a dining table with a small hole in the middle, used as a pillory for the animal’s head. Dining guests then beat the monkey’s head with small mallets until it became unconscious and dined then on its brains. Of course, all of this was fabricated with cauliflower substituting for primate gray matter.
Scenes like this would help the film become fodder for the video nasty era and get it banned in the U.K. The censorship only flamed the hype and Faces of Death became an underground cult classic with a few sequels to follow. But it is the original that remains the jewel in the crown of the franchise, having earned over $60 million in its lifetime.
Schwartz (Le Cilaire) passed away in 2019, but apparently, his legacy will live on in a new “re-imagining” of his original film. There are no details on what that means. Only that it will be written by Isa Mazzei and directed by Daniel Goldhaber (Cam).
We will keep you updated.
In the meantime, check out our story about the secrets of Faces of Death HERE.