I don’t know about you, but the thought of reliving my nightmares is terrifying. And that is exactly what Skinamarink makes you do. Skinamarink, the new feature length film from Canadian filmmaker Kyle Edward Ball, was born from his YouTube channel, Bitsized Nightmares, where Kyle would collect other people’s nightmares and recreate them. With an interesting premise, “Two children wake up in the middle of the night to find their father is missing, and all the windows and doors in their home have vanished,” (IMDb) and powerful word of mouth, Skinamarink is one of the most highly anticipated horror films of 2023. And thankfully, horror lovers everywhere won’t have to wait too long. To celebrate the film’s release in theaters this weekend, I chatted with Kyle via Zoom about how the film came about and the project that was the inspiration, what he hopes people walk away with, and more!
PopHorror: I really liked Skinamarink. I’m excited to speak with you today!
Kyle Edward Ball: Awesome!
PopHorror: What led you to expand upon your short, Heck, that Skinamarink was derived from?
Kyle Edward Ball: Heck was always, from the beginning, supposed to be a proof of concept for a feature. When I wrote Heck, and made Heck, I thought, okay. This will be vaguely the story and look I’m going to do for my feature, but let’s maybe write it as a standalone. And when I make Heck, and finish Heck, by that time I maybe will want to lean in a different direction for the story, or a different feel for the story, but this will be a good proof of concept of start. So I made Heck. I think it’s a nice standalone as far as the short, and from there, I developed different ideas and different concepts for what I wanted to do with the feature, but I still think it’s a good complementary piece to Skinamarink.
PopHorror: Skinamarink got its roots from you collecting nightmares in a very interesting project of yours. Could you explain a bit more about this?
Kyle Edward Ball: Yeah, for sure. In my mid-twenties I started a YouTube channel where people would comment the nightmares they had, and I would recreate them. While doing that channel, I kind of learned who I was as a filmmaker. I learned my strengths; I learned my weaknesses. I developed my own little style borrowing obviously from other people’s styles, but definitely the low-fi, grainy, crunchy sound look and feel. I noticed that people were commenting the same nightmare over and over again, oddly. People had the same nightmare where, I’m a little kid. I’m alone in my house, and there’s a monster, and I have to deal with it. That kind of kept reverberating in my mind, and I figured out maybe that’s a movie so that segued into Heck and then that segued into Skinamarink.
PopHorror: I don’t want to relive my nightmares, so that’s terrifying.
Kyle Edward Ball: Do any of us?
PopHorror: Your film is really highly anticipated. I posted that I was watching it and people just commented all night about how they can’t wait to see it. They’re posting about it constantly.
Kyle Edward Ball: Cool!
PopHorror: How does it feel to see genre fans clamoring to experience Skinamarink after its very humble beginning?
Kyle Edward Ball: It’s amazing! I feel like the luckiest filmmaker in the world. The other day someone took a picture of the poster at their local cinema, and it was next to the Barbie poster and the Oppenheimer poster, and I’m like, oh my god. I remember when that was just a meme, and here it’s happening, right? That’s been amazing. And I have to say, for the most part, the horror community has been great. I’ve been a member of the horror community for years. It’s an amazing community to see take up this movie. Also the different pockets of the horror community, whether it’s horror TikTok, horror YouTube, horror Twitter – which is its own thing. It’s just been wonderful and amazing, and I’m so excited. I do know that when it plays there will be a handful of people who are disappointed by it, but that’s with every movie. Every movie’s going to have that, and out of that, there’s still going to be a lot of people who like it, and a lot of people who love it.
PopHorror: You’re going to have that with everything. You can’t please everyone. I did read online that you were seeing a lot of fan art.
Kyle Edward Ball: Yeah!
PopHorror: Which is amazing considering it hasn’t been officially released and just on its festival run. That tells you right there how highly anticipated it is and how people are excited about it, and just by word of mouth.
Kyle Edward Ball: Yeah, seeing the fan art has been incredible and makes me feel so honored and lucky, particularly because I can’t draw. Seeing people just volunteer, “Here, I spent time making art.” It’s like, oh my god. Thank you so much! Wow. It’s amazing.
PopHorror: That’s so awesome. What do you hope people take away from Skinamarink?
Kyle Edward Ball: It’s hard because, from the get-go, I wanted to make something that people would have different theories and different feelings and different emotions from, and people have been pretty good as far as assuming that I don’t want to say the movie’s about this, about that, blah blah blah. Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what the director thinks anymore. My favorite movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey, I don’t really care what Stanley Kubrick wanted to say with it because it matters what I feel from it. And every time I see it, I feel different things. So what I do want the audience to feel is I want them to have a good time, have a scary fun time, have their pants scared off, and I want them to feel something personal. And again, at the end of the day, it’s not my movie anymore. It’s not Kyle Edward Ball’s movie. It’s your movie. It’s Tiffany’s movie. It’s everyone else’s movie now.
PopHorror: What was the most challenging aspect of making the film?
Kyle Edward Ball: Every indie movie there’s a billion challenges. There were a lot of surprises as far as we’re always told a child actor is so hard, but the thing is, if you plan for it ahead time, if you’re not a dick to the actors, if you make accommodations, working with child actors is way easier than I certainly thought it would be going in. But there were other weird challenges that they don’t even tell you about in film school, like, “Okay, just so you know. When you’re editing your movie, and you send it to your friends for feedback, that’s going to be like pulling teeth because A, a lot of the people you would send it to were involved in production and read the script, so it’s going to be hard gauging the reaction because they’ve read the script. Even if you have someone like one of our associate producers John (Barkan), he hadn’t read the script, and he’s a horror fan, so he was like the perfect person to send it to. And he came back with a big laundry list – not mean in any way – but like, “Okay, here’s what I liked. Here’s what I didn’t like. Here’s stuff that I don’t even know so get a second opinion on.” He was the perfect person. He was the first person to watch a rough cut, so that was perfect. Or even like your amazing executive producer Edmon Rotea, who is going to support you through this whole process, even up until today. He, by sheer fluke, is going to be one of the people that is maybe not a fan of the movie. And that’s going to paint your feelings of how other people are going to react to it. So, weird things like that happened. Also, just like you’re going to get in your head at weird times, and you’re not going to understand why because movies are a weird animal to make. That was a huge challenge, just working with your inner voice and the voices in your head doubting yourself. That was a huge challenge. Or other stupid things too, like most of my parents’ house, if you take away furniture, or change things, or put things from the 90s in it, it looks enough like a house from the 90s, but the kitchen? It’s impossible. You can’t make the appliances that are brand spanking new – like literally new. The dishwasher’s new – And it’s like, aAnyone is going to see that and immediately be taken out, so you have to do things like avoid shooting the kitchen or when there is a scene in the kitchen, it has to be dark as hell. There were weird challenges like that. But if you take your time, and if you’re surrounded by a great group of friends who want to see you succeed, and want to see a great movie get made, then a lot of times it pans out.
PopHorror: One last question for you today. What is your favorite scary movie?
Kyle Edward Ball: That’s hard because gee, sometimes it’s The Birds by Alfred Hitchcock, sometimes it’s The Shining. I don’t know, there’s just so many.
PopHorror: Those are great answers!
Kyle Edward Ball: Can I say The Birds, or The Shining, or Lake Mungo. Or if I was to say the scariest movie that I was privileged enough to see ahead of time, that’s going to be released in 2023, that isn’t my movie, The Outwaters by Robbie Banfitch. Another easy one? Best Canadian horror film ever made, Black Christmas.
Thank you so much to Kyle for taking the time to speak with us. Catch Skinamarink in theaters now, and exclusively on Shudder later in 2023.