I have been a fan of the independent horror channels on YouTube for quite some time now. The main ones, like Crypt TV and Alter, are worthy of praise. The quality of their short stories is amazing, and it is easy to see that a lot of blood, sweat and tears go into each and every production. They may be short, but they pack a very entertaining punch. And they are not the only channels devoted to the macabre.
There are thousands of horror channels, each with its own brand of storytelling and cult-like followings. Some of my favorites are Mr. Nightmare, Fearflix and BizarreBub. While they may be hit-or-miss when it comes to being scary, they do offer a little variety, and isn’t variety the spice of life?
Sometimes, these creators strike a home run. They make a video that starts getting lots of views, then those views turn into shares, and now you have a viral sensation. At that point, Hollywood may come knocking. A great example of this was the 2016 film, Lights Out. While David Sandberg wasn’t a dedicated YouTube creator, his short film of the same title was such a success on the streaming-media platform that soon his vision was turned into a major motion picture. It’s rare, but that makes it special.
The latest creator to make this leap is Kyle Edward Ball. Kyle recreates his follower’s suggestions at his YouTube channel, Bitesized Nightmares. Originally, his film, Skinamarink, was one of these short stories called Heck. With a budget of only $15,000 and some borrowed equipment, Ball set out to turn Heck into its final, full-length form.
Taking place in 1995, 4-year-old Kevin (Lucas Paul) and his 6-year-old sister, Kaylee (Dali Rose Tetreault), find themselves at home after a hospital visit. As the night progresses, their parents have seemingly disappeared, leaving the children alone in the dark house. Soon, they notice incredibly disturbing events, such as toys floating and a harmful disembodied voice calling out to them. The terrors only amp up once Kaylee disappears, leaving Kevin alone in the dark house, with no hope for salvation in sight.
I will say it right now, Skinamrink struck a nerve. As a child, my greatest fear was being left alone in a dark house. I remember sometimes being home alone while my mom was at work and my dad was in his workshop. Suddenly, I would get this feeling like I was being watched, and it would creep me out to the point of running out of the house just to get away. Nothing was there, but my mind told me to be afraid.
I see the same thing in my daughter, nowadays. She won’t go anywhere near the recreation room at night, which has a motion-activated light. She is terrified of that dark room, and if I am being honest, I don’t blame her. Skinamarink feeds on those fears. It makes them real (well, as real as a movie can make them). After watching it, I kinda felt those tingles in my spine when I was a kid. Admittedly, I did turn on every light between me and the bedroom that night.
The name, Skinamarink, is even a word that takes me back to my childhood. In elementary school, our music teacher would bring records (Yes, I know I am old) to play for the class. The song, “Skidamarink,” was one I still hum to this day. In fact, one of the playlists my daughter listens to has the whimsical song of love. By contrast, Skinamarink is far from a story of love. It’s pure terror, from start to finish. Luckily, Kyle realized having such a scary film with a name close to a beloved children’s song could be troublesome. Hence, he made the slight spelling change in hopes of preventing it from being found by children.
Since its premiere at the Fantasia Film Festival in July of 2022, Skinamarink has become a viral sensation. The film was illegally downloaded and made available on many different streaming platforms, including YouTube and TikTok. This typically would be a dagger into the heart of the film team, as this means their project will probably never earn any money or even recoup its cost. But that was not the case. The film was picked up by IFC Midnight in the U.S. and released in January of 2023. Since then, it has brought home more than $2 million at the box office. And now, the AMC-owned horror service, Shudder, has picked up the rights, exposing the flick to even more people.
Skinamarink is an incredibly good horror film that will resonate with anyone who has experienced childhood nightmares. I give the movie a solid five out of five stars. Kyle Ball took these common fears and turned them even darker, making my heart pound as I was drawn into Kevin’s plight. The utter helplessness the character experiences is so close to how I sometimes felt, which drew me in, putting me into his small shoes.
As long as Kyle Ball continues to make these types of stories, his career is going to be bright. Can’t wait to see his next project, and I now have his YouTube channel set as a favorite. You should too. These types of channels are where you will probably find the future of horror.