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When I was a kid, maybe around 12, I used to go sleep over at friends' houses. Most of these other kids were my friend because they lived very near us, usually no more than a block away. One kid in particular, we were always setting up sleepovers so we could stay up late and play Super Nintendo games. We didn't really think past that point, though, because after that you actually do have to sleep. And I always had trouble with that part.

Sleepover after sleepover, I'd go over, we'd stay up late playing video games...and I couldn't fall asleep. I'd be the only one awake in the house. I'd lie there, and lie there, and turn over, and sit up, and lie back down, and go to the bathroom, and walk downstairs, and walk back upstairs. Several times I "gave up" and snuck back home in the middle of the night, banging on the door until my mom woke up and let me in. I'm a little embarrassed about how often this happened, particularly the part where I kept agreeing to sleepovers, knowing full well this was going to happen again.

I'm not really sure why this happened. I've always been a little fidgety and had some touch of hypervigilance, and maybe something about that house was just uncomfortable. My parents had recently divorced, too, so who knows what that's doing to a 12 year old's brain and sense of home.

This is all a long intro to say this: Skinamarink perfectly captures that feeling, as a child, of wandering around at night, or waking up when your parents aren't there, or just generally feeling like you're somewhere you're not supposed to be. Even the obscenely long pauses kind of fit this theme. As an adult, you'd call out to someone, check a room, move on. Logical, quick, check boxes and move on. As a kid, you're more tentative. "Hello?" you'll say, and you'll maybe stand there a solid two minutes to see if you get an answer, before you dare move forward a few more feet, let alone open some closed door to see if anyone's around.

The weird ambient noise, the TVs left on, the fuzzy darkness you can sort of make things out in...all of that is an absolute time machine for certain discrete aspects of childhood. It has a delirious fever dream quality.

That's how it all felt. If I try to step back a bit more, I have a couple of criticisms, and a couple of questions.

The small criticism is the first 30 minutes or so. I know, I know, I know the fans and the director will tell me they have to be slow and plodding to set everything else up. This might be true. I'm just not convinced it is. I think there's an extra 10 minutes in there that doesn't need to be, even while mostly appreciating it has to straddle a weird line there.

The big criticism is simple: some of the scares are really cheap. They're just jump scares. I'm not wholly against these, but they're particularly bad here, because they literally increase the volume to make them startle you more. I was literally turning the volume down and the film was counteracting me.

I can appreciate the craft in using whispers to make the audience lean forward, only to shock them when something louder comes in...but that's fair. It's fair because the audience has done it to themselves, by being so alert. You can shock them with normal audio at that point, something that would not be a jump scare except that you've enthralled them and caused them to lean forward. That's great. That's what brilliant horror does: it recruits your own mind and emotions to its side, against you. Cranking the volume up so they have to jump out of pure animal reflex (literally, my cat and dog jumped more than once), even when they know it's coming, is the kind of trick that's beneath the rest of what the film's doing.

Interpretations, then. What's it all mean? I have plenty of guesses: it's about abuse, it's all a result of a concussion, it's about divorce, or it's just straight-up about an awful entity torturing a family, both physically and mentally. The only thing that really points firmly in any one direction, though, is that title card: 572 days. To me that points to the last interpretation I listed (acknowledging that that one can co-exist with some of the other symbolic ones, of course). That, along with the reversing and repeating blood splatter, sure make it seem like the entity has got these people caught in some kind of loop and is hurting them for its own amusement, but without letting them actually die.

I think it's really interesting trying to read plot summaries and theories, and realizing that the people who've written them literally don't even agree about the basic events of the film. One of them thought the eye injury was to Kaylee, the other thought it happened to Kevin. More confusingly, one of them thought the final lines of the film (the repeated "What is your name?") was coming from Kevin, rather than the entity.

My take was that the entity was speaking those lines, essentially to us, the audience. A little cheesy maybe but effective. I say this in part because I was expecting something like that, and in part because the lines are basically just little audio artifacts, that barely sound human and would not have been interpretable as words without the subtitles.

I suppose the person I read was thinking it must've been Kevin specifically because it seems like something Kevin would ask, and because of the expectation that the title of the film must be the entity's name. So the film ends, and the title comes full circle, the moment Kevin asks Skinamarink what their name is. They might have explained the bizarre tone of the noise as the result of however Kevin's being manipulated.

Would be interested to hear each person's interpretation of all that stuff, though I imagine we'll all agree it's mostly beside the point. I will say, though, that based on the film's first half I expected a lot more ambiguity, and only find myself trying to untangle these things because it got weirdly specific (again, "572 days") as it went on, mostly to my delight.

Anyway, yes, it's brilliant. It got under my skin (mostly in a fair way, rather than there mere shock) and transported my psyche. That's more important than anything else about the film, even while I think there's plenty to criticize.