What is the movie Skinamerink? Is it a found footage movie? Is it a nightmarish fever dream? Is it a low budget “student project” that went viral? Explaining the meaning of Skinamerink involves an understanding of a number of things in order to unpack just what it is.
Sure, you can just dismiss it as the latest experiment in experiential horror movies, akin to both found footage and internet horror movies that are oftentimes thin on plot but make up for it in emersion. Or you can have fun in trying to understand the filmmaker’s intent and the little details he puts into the movie.
Skinamerink, released in January 2023 on Shudder, is an interesting entry in experimental horror. So let’s dive in and see if we can find blurry shapes in the dark plot that is Skinamerink.
The Plot of Skinamerink Explained
Skinamerink does have a plot. It isn’t dense, but it is there.
The spoiler-free version of the plot of Skinamerink is that a boy named Kevin and his little sister Kaylee wake up in the middle of the night to watch cartoons in the basement. They begin to hear weird noises. The doors and windows and certain other objects seem to disappear out of thin air. Venturing to the upstairs and interactions with their parents grow increasingly weird and creepy. There is something else in the house, and no way to get out.
Now I’m going to get into spoiler territory in order to find meaning in Skinamerink, ultimately seeing if we can explain the plot of this movie by understanding a few potential theories on what is going on.
First and foremost, Skinamerink is a particular type of nightmare that a person could have, expanded out into a 1 hour 40 minute movie. The nightmare is that someone is roaming their house at night, doors and windows begin to disappear (which is common in dreams), and they begin to see weird things and people saying creepy things. Basically.
While you could compare the plot of Skinamerink to The Blair Witch or Paranormal Activity, another comparison I would strongly suggest is horror video games. Games like 5 Nights at Freddy’s, Phasmophobia, and Layers of Fear are described as survival horror video games where you roam a location in first person point of view and typically see increasingly creepy, scary things. They are exploration games, and in many ways that is what the movie Skinamerink is.
In Skinamerink “you” are Kevin waking up in the middle of the night and dealing with increasingly creepy things. It also makes a lot of sense to compare it to survival video games in that this being “found footage” doesn’t make much sense in the way it does for movies like The Blair Witch or Paranormal Activity.
The plot of those found footage movies involve explaining why these people are being video taped. In Skinamerink there is no explanation for why Kevin is carrying around a video camera, or why there are cameras set up all over the house. There are a number of things that allude to there being cameras there or that the cameras exist in that space, particularly the introductory titles and odd subtitle 572 Days. Does that mean 572 days passes while Kevin is just standing there? What does that mean? Very unclear. (Though one theory to explain it is in Theory #2 below.) In any case, the “rules” of whether we are watching video camera footage or not are not very clear.
In many ways Skinamerink‘s style most closely resembles survival video games or a dream itself, rather than found footage.
To further get into the meaning of Skidamerink and how to piece it all together, I think it would be helpful to dive into several overarching theories. Because there are several ways to understand it, deciding on several different “readings” can be a way to decide your own interpretation of what happened in the movie.
Explaining the Meaning of Skinamerink in 4 Theories
Skinamerink Explained Theory 1: Sleepwalking
This theory I think is one of the most plausible ways to explain Skinamerink. Perhaps the largest plot point in the early part of the movie is that Kevin fell down the stairs while sleepwalking. We hear him tumble down the stairs, and his father explains what happened, presumably to Kevin’s mother.
Later after Kevin and Kaylee have gotten up, we hear roughly that same tumble down the stairs. Right there is evidence that, in fact, at that point Kevin is sleepwalking again and he is only partially lucid. He fell down the stairs again. He partially registers the sound and what happened, but like anyone who is still mostly asleep, the sound integrates into the dream he is having. He hears a sound and he gets scared, thinking it is one of his parents getting up or possibly someone else.
Reading it in this way, the rest of the movie is Kevin sleeping while seeing parts of his house and the things he sees in the dark while sleepwalking.
Many other things support this theory. Him interacting with his parents is Kevin wandering in their room and talking with them, but the mix of what they actually say and what it comes across in his dream-state (a nightmare) translates to his parents saying creepy things that don’t quite make sense. This is literally what happens to people when they are partially asleep. I’ve had conversations with a sibling when he was still mostly asleep, and so when I told him something, he would say “But what about the robots?”… he was integrating what I was telling him with some dream about robots.
Throughout the movie Kevin does not get a good look at anyone’s face. We see his face only briefly. This is because he is not fully lucid and so he only comprehends vaguely the person is there. Like a figure in the dark. About an hour into the movie when Kevin sees Kaylee and her eyes and mouth have disappeared (reminiscent of The Pale Lady from the Scary Stories books or the movie Lake Mungo), that is Kevin drifting out into the real world and actually seeing someone’s face, but his nightmare is still a veil over it. It is very similar to someone being partially woken up by someone standing over them and they are deathly afraid of the figure, when in fact it could stem from a real person who might be there but they are unable to see them as who they are since they are still sleeping. Kevin sees his sister, but his nightmare sleep-state is causing her to look possessed in some way. The same way his parents seemed possessed when likely they were talking to him normally.
Additionally, the appearing and disappearing of things in his house could be Kevin drifting in and out of lucidity. It’s like opening and closing his eyes, seeing the real house and the dream version of his house back-and-forth.
And now the ending of Skinamerink. How do you explain the ending? Who does he see in the darkness? It is one of his parents! Probably his mom. Telling him to go back to sleep. He is sleepwalking and he does not recognize her. He is further incorporating things happening in the real world into his dream. In this case, his nightmare is that there is something scary in his house and he sees it vaguely in front of him, not knowing it is his mom again trying to coax him back into bed.
Skinamerink Explained Theory 2: The Coma Theory
This theory is similar to the previous sleepwalking theory. Kevin is sleepwalking and falls again at the beginning of the movie. But in this theory, rather than continuing to sleepwalk, he is in a coma or even dies and the rest of the movie is a state of him confronting demons on his way either to the afterlife or stuck in some kind of coma-induced nightmare state.
This theory posits that it is a “Jacob’s Ladder scenario” in which Kevin is wrestling with either the afterlife or a deeper state of sleeping while in a coma. The aforementioned 572 Days could be explained in this theory. Kevin is in a coma and has been for 572 days, stuck in some kind of nightmare dream-state for that long, unable to get out.
Skinamerink Explained Theory 3: An Entity
While you may not like those interpretations much, you can certainly come to the more straight-forward conclusion that the true meaning of Skinamerink is that there is a dark entity of some kind in Kevin’s house. And like many of the best horror movies, we don’t get a name of the THING or understand what it is.
This dark entity has possessed his parents fully, or they are in the middle of being taken over when he goes to their bedroom. When Kaylee goes upstairs, she is taken over by the same thing.
As for the ending of Skinamerink, that can be explained as Kevin finally being face to face with this entity. The fact that it is telling him to go to sleep might tell us something about what it is and how it works. It “possesses” them when they are asleep. His parents were asleep and were taken over. Kaylee went upstairs and probably went to sleep, and she became possessed by the entity. And so the entity wants Kevin to go to sleep so it can take him over next.
Skinamerink Explained Theory 4: The Cartoons and Songs
One thing that interplays throughout the events of the movie Skinamerink is old cartoons that are playing on the TV. One theory is that these cartoons and childhood songs have more meaning in Skinamerink than just being creepy add-ons to an already creepy movie. They are interacting with the plot of the movie.
This is just a few initial thoughts about a few of the cartoons and songs used, while delving deeper into them could result in finding even more interesting clues and tidbits.
Let’s start with the title of the movie: Skinamerink. The children’s song is not as old as some children’s songs, and it is normally spelled Skidamerink. The filmmaker has said that he purposely spelled it differently so that children would less likely stumble across this movie when searching for the song. The song was originally written by Felix F. Feist and Al Piantadosi for the 1910 Charles Dillingham Broadway production The Echo. The word itself is gibberish. Used in this movie, it works well because it sounds like it could be the name of an entity, a monster of some sort. Maybe the Skinamerink is a creature that skins people. A Skinamerink can be one of a thousand mythical creatures that exist in different cultures as a way to scare children, such as Baba Yaga, a snipe, or really an “closet monster” that children are worried about being in their closet, under the bed, etc. A Skinamerink could easily fit that mold.
Now look at the lyrics. It is about a sea-nymph being loved by two different creatures, Big Chief Crocodile and King Fish Kokomo. There are a number of elements that could be interpreted as scary… “when the midnight moon was pale” this king fish appears and wants to take her away, so the sea-nymph has to say “go away!” Right there is a unique description of what is happening in the movie Skinamerink, where a creature is somewhere in the house and is trying to take his sister away, and then take him away.
Moving on, we can look at the cartoons that are featured. One is Somewhere in Dreamland, a cartoon that plays well with the subject of the movie. The plot of that cartoon has a number of similarities to the plot of Skinamerink. Like Hansel and Gretel and other traditional children’s tales, it involves a brother and sister, like Kevin and Kaylee. In the cartoon they are very poor. Their mother sends them to sleep, hungry. While asleep they dream of a wondrous land with all the food and riches they want. When they awake, the people from the town have made them a large feast that they may enjoy. In the context of Skinamerink, this could be the entity coaxing them with riches of some kind. The entity at a certain point says “I can do anything”… like Hansel and Gretel and many similar tales, the entity in Kevin and Kaylee’s house is luring them just as the children of Somewhere in Dreamland are being lured with delicious food in their dreams.
This actually comes into play when the entity begins to take Kevin’s Legos. That can be interpreted a number of ways, but one interpretation might be that the entity is taking the Legos upstairs in order to lure Kevin to it. “Come upstairs, Kevin… I have your Legos, come play with me…” Perhaps the Legos being chucked back into the room is the entity unhappy that its scheme did not work.
Another cartoon seen is 1935’s Old Mother Hubbard. The plot of that cartoon actually mimics what is happening at that point of the movie. When Old Mother Hubbard finds her cupboard empty, she sends her dog to the palace of the King. Around this time in Skinamerink is when Kevin ventures upstairs to investigate, just like the dog in the cartoon. And the “king” in the cartoon is synonymous with the “king” of the upstairs where Kevin is traveling to, just like in the song Skidamerink and its King Fish Kokomo. This evil Skinamarink creature is the King of the house now, and Kevin has to deal with it.
Again, these are just a number of initial impressions and observations. There is likely a lot more going on. With so many haunting images but limited dialogue and overt story, understanding and explaining Skinamerink is bound to keep horror-lovers busy for quite some time.
Last Updated on January 27, 2023.