I haven't seen horror fans so divided since Rob Zombie started making movies. Or when serious fans derided the pop horror of Scream. More than anything it's like The Blair Witch Project, when massive hype induced a lot of people to watch a movie, only to feel like they'd been had.

I'm in a better position than some to appreciate an experimental project like Skinamarink. I've seen a lot of avant-garde cinema, from early pioneers like Maya Deren and Kenneth Anger, up through the sixties with the Kuchar Brothers and Jack Smith. I sat through movies like Begotten; Clean, Shaven; and Schramm.

My favorite magazine of the nineties was Film Threat Video Guide. It championed the weird, the bizarre. Movies way, way outside the mainstream. Readers made their own modest productions and sent them to the mag for review. Skinamarink would have been a perfect candidate for a high rating.

I was pretty sure I was going to love Skinamarink from the trailer. Seeing the utter hatred and contempt from so many people made me positive I would.

I suffered from night terrors when I was young. Every creak of the house, every unexplained sound, filled me with dread. A partially open closet door menaced me. Parents were no help. In fact, they made everything worse.

I laid awake on many long nights, too afraid to go to the bathroom. My imagination ran wild, and I used to pray for the arrival of dawn.

I eventually got better, and horror is what helped me. I didn't merely watch scary movies to confront my fears. That wasn't enough. Horror became a defining element of my life. I'm still exorcising my fears with the genre.

No film has ever embodied my childhood terrors more accurately and with such effectiveness as Skinamarink. Watching it made me feel like a child again, in a house fraught with ominous threat.

People are bored to pieces with Skinamarink. I couldn't possibly have a more opposite reaction. I loved every second of it. I was mesmerized by the grainy photography. The repetitious footage of the house crept up my spine and gave me literal chills. The undefined threats, the skin-crawling ambient noises, the utter helplessness of the two children all riveted me to the screen.

I can't help but love, to be in awe, of someone who made such an noncommercial movie. Kyle Edward Ball defies all audience expectations with Skinamarink. It's a bold, risky movie that somehow paid off. Polarized audiences only help the movie's success. Everybody has to see for themselves how good, or bad, it is.

I think a lot of people are watching it in the wrong way. It's not a movie to watch with a group. Very few people can keep their mouths shut for the running time of any picture. This is not a movie to gab through. It wouldn't take much to break the spell Skinamarink holds on viewers. Or to never allow it to take hold of them.

I used to watch old horror movies on a black and white set at a table in my bedroom when I was young. It was there where I saw Kolchak: The Night Stalker episodes. I remember watching Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman by myself in the dark bedroom. Twilight Zone and Night Gallery often scared me half to death there.

This morning I was awake at a typically early hour. I made a cup of strong tea and I crept up the creaking staircase to my office. I had the entire upstairs to myself and I keyed up Skinamarink on the desktop computer upon my writing table. I can't think of a better way to bring back my childhood love and fear of horror than this.

I got serious, serious creeps from Skinamarink. My spine was literally tingling and I almost covered my eyes a few times. Still half in dreamland, the movie was a surreal and dreamlike experience. The swirling grainy picture appeared to gradually become more pronounced as it progressed. Either that or my brain was fried by the end.

It makes me very happy to see Skinamarink making so much money from a modest fifteen thousand dollar budget. It makes me sad to see so many people who feel cheated. Not just cheated, but nearly furious. It's a movie that will give you back exactly what you put into it. It's certainly not for cynical or impatient viewers.

Seeing Skinamarink puts me at a disadvantage. For the time being every other horror story will seem laughable. No other story has ever tapped into my primal fears as strongly as this one.

Written by Mark Sieber

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