7 Horror Movies To Watch If You Like Shudder’s Skinamarink: Made on a budget of just $15,000, the Canadian indie-experimental horror Skinamarink (2023) became a box-office smash hit, grossing more than a hundred times its budget. Director Kyle Edward Ball’s reliance on lo-fi visual and aural techniques to elicit fear earned the film an instant following. In fact, it was an innovative indie horror that did away with conventional narrative structures.
Currently streaming on Shudder, the film follows two young children, Kaylee and Kevin (played by Dali Rose Tetreault and Lucas Paul, respectively), who wake up in the middle of the night to realize that their father is nowhere to be found. Furthermore, the windows and doors in their house have seemingly disappeared, caging the children inside. If this wasn’t enough, a mysterious voice emanating from upstairs begins to beckon the children.
The film has been widely praised for replicating child-like dread and for its unique lo-fi approach to horror. If Skinamarink made your hair stand on end, here are seven similar horror entries with either a formal, aesthetic, or narrative resemblance to the film.
For this list, we are focusing specifically on the horror genre. Still, those captivated by the unique experimental approach of the film would be fascinated by the works of filmmakers like Stan Brakhage (Dog Star Man), Maya Deren (Meshes of the Afternoon), Chantel Akerman (Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles) and Kenneth Anger (Scorpio Rising)—all of whom Ball has cited as an inspiration for the film.
As for now, here are seven horror movies to watch if you liked Skinamarik:
7. Heck (2020)
What better way to kick off this list than to cite the short film that eventually became the basis for Skinamarink? This short film was a creation of Skinamarkink director Ball himself. He made it for his YouTube channel titled Bitesized Nightmares, which actually inspired the filmmaker to turn the plot into a feature-length film.
Heck has a similar plot to Skinamarink, wherein a young boy wakes up in the middle of the night to find his mother missing. Consider this a tighter miniature version of Skinamarink as Ball employs the same lo-fi grainy approach to film the existential dread of a child feeling lost without maternal presence.
The short is best viewed after watching its feature-length version, as it seemingly corroborates one of the dark Reddit theories about Skinamarink. You will know exactly what I am talking about once you finish watching the film. Heck is available for free on YouTube.
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6. Begotten (1989)
Before E. Elias Merhige directed the Academy-nominated yet severely underseen Shadow of the Vampire (2000), a meta-historical look at the making of Nosferatu, he made Begotten (1989). An elusive black-and-white silent-horror film, Begotten was soon hailed as a modern artistic masterpiece like the cultural connoisseurs Susan Sontag.
Featuring influences from Theatre of Cruelty and the philosophy of Nietzsche, Begotten (as its title suggests) revolves around the theme of birth and death, but in the ways you least expect it.
Though Skinamarink and Begotten have only their experimental roots to share, both films rely on unnerving images (in massively distinct ways) and stem away from traditional methods of horror filmmaking. And just like Skinamarink, you would be scanning the Internet to read and re-read the multiple interpretations and theories on Begotten that are as fascinating as they are disturbing.
5. The Babadook (2014)
Skinamarink isn’t the first film that introduced a deep-voiced monster lurking in the dark who manipulated children into doing weird shit. Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook did that first! The film revolves around Amelia (Essie Davis), a single mother who lives with her eccentric six-year-old son, Samuel (Noah Wiseman). Already leading a strenuous life, Amelia’s world begins to upend with the arrival of a mysterious picture book about the titular monster.
An allegory for depression and parenthood, Jennifer Kent’s feature film debut set the template for the so-called ‘elevated horror’ that dismantled the conventional view of horror being a genre for cheap thrills. The Babadook is a highly recommended gem if, like Skinamarink, you prefer some distinct thematic or experiential insight from your film.
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4. The Grandmother (1970)
While any of David Lynch’s eccentric shorts could have made this list, The Grandmother, with its narrative focus around a lonely child, does carry some reverberations with Skinamarink’s theme of parental abandonment. In this surrealist and haunting short film, a boy from an abusive household finds a bag of seeds and sows them.
Our protagonist reaps more than he had sowed as the seed grows into a loving and caring grandmother for the child. But don’t let this fantastical plot fool you into undermining the film’s haunting images and a perennial sense of disquiet.
Considering the fact that Ball cites Lynch’s filmography as an influence on Skinamarink, this impressionistic surreal short horror film is a perfect introduction to the American auteur’s nightmarish visions.
3. Oculus (2013)
Perhaps the only ‘mainstream’ entry on this list and the most familiar, Oculus, with its focus on a cursed demonic mirror, might seem way too distanced from the cryptic entity of Skinamarink. On the other hand, the empathetic brother-sister relationship at the heart of Skinamarink finds a more pronounced version in Oculus, in which two young siblings (Annalise Basso and Garrett Ryan Ewald in excellent performances) are forced to act when a cursed mirror sends their parents on a downward spiral.
Oculus is an exquisitely made psychological horror that cemented Mike Flanagan’s status as an emerging voice in the horror genre, despite relying on some established horror tropes. Apart from the scares, what sets Oculus apart is its strong focus on the sister-brother bond facing a primeval evil. If the sight of an innocent Kevin bringing Kaylee a glass of juice moved you, then the protective sibling relationship in Oculus is definitely worth giving a shot!
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2. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Despite being a found-footage film, The Blair Witch Project bears several uncanny resemblances to Skinamarink. Both projects were helmed by little-known filmmakers and made on a minuscule budget, yet the viral marketing of the films propelled their immense financial success.
The Blair Witch Project and Skinamarink, more than being a clever marketing ploy, evoke a pervasive sense of dread, where a simple solution or cheap jump scares doesn’t disrupt the narrative flow (although that’s not to say there aren’t any). Evil is never explicitly showcased on screen in both films, making its looming presence all the more terrifying. Even though the found-footage genre has been overdone and deconstructed, The Blair Witch Project did it more subtly than its predecessors, proving that the most horrifying thing is one you can’t see.
1. We’re All Going to the World’s Fair (2022)
In an interview with Roger Ebert.com, director Kyle Edward Ball, who is gay, acknowledged that his film Skinamarink was a part of a new wave of queer filmmakers who use horror as a prism to discuss queer themes implicitly. A pioneering member of this new wave of filmmakers includes Jane Schoenbrun, whose film We’re All Going to the World’s Fair created a similar buzz in the horror community. Plus, Schoenbrun is all praise for Skinamarink!
Toeing the line between experimental and indie, We’re All Going to the World’s Fair tells the story of Casey (Anna Cobb), a teenager who takes up the titular sinister Internet challenge that is supposed to transform your body into something else. Despite borrowing from Internet creepypastas, WAGTTWF is not interested in exploiting these online horrors’ mythologies for cheap scares. Schoenbrun uses the Internet to explore questions of identity, loneliness, and alienation, revealing a profound examination of growing up in the digital age.
With Robbie Banfitch’s The Outwaters being another highly anticipated entry this year, we certainly await a bright future for this new wave of queer horror films.