This Skinamarink article contains spoilers.
Upon first viewing, it’s easy to see why Skinamarink has sparked so much debate on Reddit forums about its true meaning and what exactly Kevin and Kaylee are experiencing inside their haunted house. There are no clear answers across the film’s challenging 100-minute runtime, just hints as to what happened to Kevin and Kaylee’s missing parents and the identity of the faceless villain who whispers to the children from upstairs. And with the film grain turned all the way up so that you can barely make out what’s happening in the house’s dimly lit hallways and rooms, and shots that never actually focus in on the characters or their faces, it’s hard to know what you’re even looking at from one scene to the next.
All of this works to heighten the effect of the mysteries that make up Skinamarink‘s barebones story. Your mileage may vary as to whether you have the patience to sit through the movie’s slow burn and often incomprehensible dialogue-driven plot (the sound design itself is top notch). But if you’ve made it to the end of the trip — all 572 days of it — you’ll likely have come away with your own interpretation of the film’s bizarre events. Certainly, there’s no shortage of fan theories to read on the movie’s main discussion thread on r/horror.
So, what’s the meaning of Kevin and Kaylee’s journey into the darkness? Why doesn’t Kaylee want to talk about what happened to Mom? What does 572 days mean? And who or what is the monster haunting the house?! Here are some of our favorite theories regarding what the hell is going on in Skinamarink:
There Is No Monster, It’s All in Kevin’s Head
Early on in the movie, we hear Dad making a phone call. We don’t know who’s listening on the other end of the line, but we do know why he’s calling: Kevin’s fallen down the stairs and hit his head. He was sleepwalking and took a tumble. Dad reassures the person on the line that Kevin’s okay. But some viewers aren’t so sure.
“Kevin is in a coma and everything that’s happening is a result of his brain deteriorating,” writes one user. “After the tumble down the stairs, Kevin begins to forget the layout of his house (which explains the disappearing rooms) and what his family looks like (which is why we never see anyone’s faces). And the faceless monster is a distortion of either one or both of the parents.”
At the risk of suggesting it’s all been a dream inside Kevin’s head, there’s no denying the movie follows a certain dream logic, which comes through in its floaty, sometimes nonsensical plot. In fact, the movie’s very origin goes back to a short film called “Heck” that was itself the result of a YouTube series made up of Ball’s adaptations of commenters’ nightmares. Dreams are very much a part of the DNA of the project, and one of Ball’s major inspirations for making the film.
So, it makes a certain bit of sense that the movie might actually be happening inside the mind of an unconscious Kevin, and the story is about him trying to find a way out of his coma but finding no front door or window from which to metaphysically do so. 572 days is how long Kevin has been trapped inside his own mind, unable to wake up, with a final “go to sleep” from the monster confirming to the audience that it’ll soon be 573.
While the movie’s ending, and the blurry face at the other end of Kevin’s desperate final question, offer no easy answers, it’s possible Ball gave us the most important piece of the puzzle all the way at the start.
Dad Is the Monster
The only other characters we meet in the film besides Kevin and Kaylee are Dad and Mom, although we can’t be sure Kaylee is actually seeing the latter in one of Skinamarink‘s scariest sequences. (One theory suggests the monster is actually pretending to be Mom in order to trick Kaylee into doing whatever it wants.) But at least at the very beginning, when he’s making the mysterious phone call about Kevin, Dad seems very much real. But where does he go? Does he simply vanish along with all the windows and the front door? Or is he still trapped inside the house with Kevin and Kaylee somehow?
There’s an even darker theory regarding what happened to Dad, though: he never left and he’s the monster terrorizing his kids. Whether it’s physical or emotional abuse, or both, is unclear and is up to your interpretation of events.
“I think a lot of signs are pointing towards an emotionally neglectful father (if my theory is right, he’s probably in a deep depression after his wife committed suicide),” another Reddit user theorizes. “So abuse can easily be a parent taking their emotions out on their child, which I feel was represented by the entity torturing the children. The entity ‘can do anything’ — most kids see their parents as all powerful, either as superheroes or villains — and uses that power to hurt the kids. It ‘takes away Kaylee’s mouth,’ which could be a metaphor for a parent silencing a child for speaking up, either with words or physical force.
“The kids are trapped in their house with no way to leave, and the only authoritative figure around is actively hurting them. Also the visual of the house completely isolated in some nightmare void feels like a child’s idea of feeling trapped in their own home, a place that’s supposed to be safe and warm, and having no one to turn to for help. I feel the blue tint to the film also drives home how cold and lonely this home feels.”
Some viewers point to the cold manner in which Dad delivers the news that Kevin has been injured as evidence to support this theory. Dad talks about Kevin falling down the stairs like he’s reading his lines off of a teleprompter, which seems more like a conscious storytelling choice than a case of wooden acting. He doesn’t sound all that concerned.
Whether the film is a metaphor for how Kevin and Kaylee feel about their increasingly distant father, or an even more horrific sequence of events in which Dad physically torments his children, some viewers have suggested that it all goes back to whatever happened to Mom.
What’s Not Said About Mom
Skinamarink‘s dialogue is sparse, and often indiscernible from all of the background noise, muffled voices or high-pitched screeching occupying the space where the children’s words used to live. But there is one short exchange between Kevin and Kaylee that some viewers have latched onto as the key to understanding what’s going on in the movie.
Early on, when Kevin and Kaylee are searching for Dad, the younger brother suggests to his older sister that maybe Dad “went with Mom.” Kaylee quickly replies, “I don’t want to talk about Mom.” Well, why doesn’t she?
The common thread across the many theories concerning Mom’s whereabouts is that something bad happened to her, whether by her own hand or at the hands of Dad. Mom died some time prior to the start of the movie and all of the characters are trying to cope with this awful absence. When Kevin says Dad “went with Mom,” it might be his way of saying maybe Dad is dead too, which could track if you believe that the movie is a metaphor for the sense of abandonment the children feel in their darkening home.
If Mom is dead, there’s still the question of how she died. There are some particularly dark theories out there, but the one that seems to come up the most is that Mom took her own life. Some point to several clues in the film — the shot of the doll hanging from the ceiling and the “unsettling crunching noises” that one Reddit user describes as the “sound of a neck snapping” — as a clear indication that Mom hanged herself.
What most folks seem to agree on is that Mom’s death goes on to shape the experiences of the other characters in the movie. Dad vanishes (read: neglects his children and/or ends his own life) because he could no longer cope with the pain of losing his wife; Kaylee is the only character who sees Mom in the bedroom because she’s the one who found her body; without Dad or Mom to protect him, Kevin falls down the stairs at the start of the movie, which is the event that seems to trigger the arrival of the monster itself.
They’re All Dead
Depending on whose theory you’re reading, at least one character in Skinamarink is already dead by the start of the movie. Some viewers think the entire family is already dead by the the time we enter their home and that we’re actually watching them try to navigate some sort of twisted Limbo in the afterlife.
But how did they all die? The most straightforward answer is that they all perished at the hands of the monster who has moved into the house. But this movie is anything but straightforward. So was it Dad who violently killed his entire family? Did Mom do it? Interestingly enough, none of the theories compiled for this article point to Kaylee as the culprit, with some Reddit users suggesting that Kaylee losing her eyes and mouth means that she witnessed one of the murders and was quickly silenced before she could warn the others.
That leaves Kevin. By the third act, the youngest member of the family is the only one left in the house. He is the monster’s final victim — but is he a victim at all?
“Am I wrong or is the monster Kevin?” writes one viewer. “He has a split personality and when the monster personality is in control, Kevin sees the house as if there are no doors, dark and upside down. Kevin did that to his sister. And he also killed his parents. And so when Kevin is talking, he is seeing the aftermath of what he has done. And thinks there is a real monster doing these things. But all along the monster is him?”
Like the “it was all a dream” theory, “Kevin was the murderer all along” seems a bit too simple of an explanation. It’s a bit groan-inducing. But there’s no denying that it’s through Kevin’s perspective that the audience witnesses some of the most perplexing and violent moments in the movie. Kevin is sucked into some sort of void as he walks into the upside down version of his parents’ room, which some have interpreted as the boy giving into his inner darkness. It’s a moment that gives way to arguably the movie’s most disturbing scene, a looping image of blood splattering on carpet as someone screams in pain. We’re stuck in the loop for several seconds before Kevin finally whimpers, “Mommy.”
Is this supposed to be Kevin reliving his first kill? Is he witnessing the death of his mother at the hands of someone else? Or is he being repeatedly tortured by the monster and begging for his mom? The final shot of the film, a blurred face smiling back at Kevin as he asks its name, only offers silence.
Skinamarink is in theaters and streaming on Shudder now.