Shudder and IFC Midnight are launching microbudget Skinamarink on a not-so-micro 629 screens, giving the viral horror pic a major push after a well-received premiere back at Fantasia-fest that just kept snowballing with strong reviews and social media love.
“I was over the moon. For a horror filmmaker in Canada, [Fantasia] is like getting a Cannes screening,” says first-time filmmaker Kyle Edward Ball about the leadup to this weekend’s buzzy specialty opening. He shot the $15k feature at his parents’ home in Edmonton, Canada.
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In it, two children wake up in the middle of the night to find their father is missing and all the windows and doors in their home have vanished. “I’d had a nightmare when I was little. I was in my parents’ house, my parents were missing, and there was a monster. And lots of people have shared this exact same dream,” Ball tells Deadline. He should know. After film school and a stint selling video equipment, he launched a YouTube channel called Bitesized Nightmares where users described their night frights and he re-created them.
The idea of Skinamarink “fit like a glove,” he said. “I just started writing.”
It’s purposefully dark, low-fi, grainy. Not a traditional foot footage film but watching it’s no surprise that Ball calls The Blair Witch Project “one of my comfort movies.”
“I always say that horror is the most interesting, because horror has to keep reinventing itself in ways other genres don’t necessarily have to. Because it eats its young,” he says. Every good idea gets copied, “and people say they want to see something new.”
Other notable openings: Super presents France’s shortlisted Oscar submission Saint Omer by Alice Diop on 245 screens. The film world premiered at the Venice Film Festival, winning the Silver Lion Grand Jury Prize and the Luigi De Laurentiis Lion of the Future Award for Best Debut Feature. Deadline review here. Inspired by a true story, Saint Omer is in part a contemporary version of the Medea myth as it follows novelist Rama (Kayije Kagame) attending the trial of Laurence Coly (Guslagie Malanga), a young woman accused of killing her 15-month-old daughter on a beach in northern France. Valérie Dréville and Aurélia Petit also star in Diop’s second film after documentary Nous (We), which won the Berlin Film Festival’s Encounters Award in 2021. Saint Omer also screened at TIFF, NYFF and London BFI. Diop wrote the script with Amrita David and novelist Marie NDiaye.
Cinedigm, with Circle Collective, present the Pete Ohs supernatural comedy Jethica in LA at the Lumiere Music Hall before expanding to select cinemas nationally. Premiering on Cinedigm’s relaunched streaming site Fandor on Feb. 14. The film premiered at SXSW last year, Deadline review here. Hiding out in New Mexico after a freak accident, Elena (Callie Hernandez) runs into Jessica (Ashley Denise Robinson), an old friend from high school. When Jessica’s stalker (Will Madden) suddenly shows up at their door, they must seek help from beyond the grave to get rid of him, for good.
Film Movement presents Chess Story on two NY/LA screens (Quad, Laemmle Monica), expanding to about 20 markets next week. Directed by Philipp Stölzl, starring Albrecht Schuch, Oliver Masucci, Rolf Lassgård, Birgit Minichmayr. In Nazi Germany in 1938, notary Josef Bartok survices solitary confinement by escaping into the world of chess with the help of a book of famous matches. Adapted from Stefan Zweig’s final novella.
Third Day Productions presents sci-fi adventure horror The Devil Conspiracy on 925 screens. Directed by Nathan Frankowski, written by Ed Alan, starring Alice Orr-Ewing, Eveline Hall, Joe Doyle, Joe Anderson, Peter Mensah, Brian Caspe, James Faulkner. When a powerful biotech company’s breakthrough let it clone history’s most influential people from a few DNA fragments, the Satanist cabal behind the firm steals the shroud of Christ to create the ultimate offering to the devil. Archangel Michael comes to earth to save the day. The film trailered heavily with Violent Night in December and early Jan., along with significant placement with The Menu and M3GAN.
VMI Worldwide presents doc My Father Muhammad Ali in limited release. The doc tells the story of the boxing champ through the eyes of his son, Muhammad Ali Jr., who struggles with bullying, abandonment, addiction and heartbreak to ultimately find peace. Directed by Chad Verdi and Tom DeNucci.
Decal presents horror-thriller The Offering on 20 screens and digital/VOD. Directed by Oliver Park, written by Hank Hoffman. Starring Nick Blood, Emily Wiseman, Allan Corduner, Paul Kaye. In the wake of a young Jewish girl’s disappearance, the son of a Hasidic funeral director returns home with his pregnant wife in hopes of reconciling with his father. But directly beneath them in the family morgue lurks an ancient evil with sinister plans for the unborn child.
Samuel Goldwyn Film presents Louis-Julien Petit’s Kitchen Brigade in ten theaters and digital/VOD. With Audrey Lamy, François Cluzet, Chantal Neuwirth, Fatoumata Kaba, Amadou Bah, Boubacar Balde, Mamadou Koita, Yannick Kalombo. Cathy a 40-year-old sous-chef wants to open her own place but, in financial straits, she reluctantly accepts a job in the cafeteria of a shelter for young migrants.
Shout Studios presents environmental drama On Sacred Ground by Josh and Rebecca Tickell in 15 theaters and on demand. This is the first narrative feature to depict the events of the 2016 Dakota Access Pipeline protests. Cast includes David Arquette, William Mapother, Amy Smart, Irene Bedard, Kerry Knuppe, Frances Fisher, Mariel Hemingway, David Midthunder and Che Jim. Based on events surrounding the construction of the pipeline, which runs through the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. Daniel (Mapother), a journalist and military veteran, and Elliot (Arquette), an oil company executive, find themselves on opposite sides in one of the most heated confrontation with Native American tribes in modern U.S. history.
Noting: Utopia’s Holy Spider is expanding to 100 screens in week 12 with support from AMC and Regal.
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