Reel Opinions

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


So, say you're making a werewolf movie. Not only that, but you have the support of Stan Winston, one of the more famous special effect artists in the industry today doing the creature effects. Would you exploit this opportunity, or would you have your "monsters" stay in human form for about 90% of the film? Mysteriously, the makers of Skinwalkers chose the second route. Maybe they knew that all the special effects in the world couldn't save this overblown turkey that looks like it'd be right at home as a made for TV movie on the Sci-Fi Channel, yet mysteriously is playing at a theater near you. The only good thing that comes out of Skinwalkers ties into the makers of this year's earlier release, Blood and Chocolate. The people involved with that movie are no longer tied to the worst movie about werewolves released this year.

According to a brief prologue at the beginning of the film, "skinwalker" is an old Native American term for werewolf. As the movie opens, a young boy named Timothy (Matthew Knight) is set to turn 13 in a couple days. Unknown to him or his mother, Rachel (Rhona Mitra), Timothy is a part of an ancient prophecy that could end the curse of every skinwalker in existence, and make them mortal. There's a group of evil skinwalkers who ride around on motorcycles that are trying to kill the boy before his birthday, because they don't want to become human. They're led by evil, yet incredibly bland Varek (Jason Behr). Timothy and Rachel live with some extended family, who apparently are all skinwalkers also, though the mother and son are not aware of this. How this entire large group of people have been able to keep the fact that they are werewolves secret from these two people for 13 years, your guess is as good as mine. When Varek and his band of goons come riding into town looking for Timothy, the family secret is finally revealed, are forced to flee in a dusty old van, and must try to stay ahead of the pursuing skinwalkers in order to keep the kid alive.

If Skinwalkers proves anything, it's that Lionsgate studio will give just about any movie a theatrical release. How else can you explain how such a cheap, low budget, unintentionally hilarious stinker that should be sitting in the dollar bin at your local Blockbuster is currently playing on over 1,000 screens? (Not for much longer, I would assume.) It's not just the fact that the screenplay by James Demonaco, Todd Harthan, and James Roday is a jumbled mess of action-horror cliches and wooden dialogue I wouldn't wish on any actor. Everything is so blatantly cheap about this movie. The town that Timothy, Rachel, and the rest of the good skinwalker family live in during the first half of the movie is apparently occupied solely by them, and a single man who sits in a chair outside of a store. There are absolutely no extras during the town scenes, and it looks like it was shot on an abandoned set from another movie. This of course allows the two skinwalker groups to get in a violent gun battle in the street without having to worry about innocent bystanders or even police presence, since no cops ever show up. This gun fight scene does give us one of the film's biggest (unintentional, I'm thinking, but I have my doubts) laughs when an old lady who is actually one of the skinwalkers protecting the boy pulls a giant gun seemingly from out of nowhere, and starts blowing away the evil skinwalkers like an action movie badass. If the rest of the movie was this hilariously loopy, I could have enjoyed Skinwalkers in that "so bad, it's good" kind of way. Unfortunately, the movie goes downhill from there to being just plain bad.

There's two more major action sequences after that - one set at a hospital (which once again seems to lack anything resembling security, and allows the skinwalkers to break out the guns and start shooting at each other without anyone raising as much as an eyebrow), and another set at a factory that doesn't really seem to make anything except steam and fire for atmosphere as the lead skinwalkers on both sides are stalking each other. The rest of the film is made up of silly exposition dialogue that never really explains anything to begin with, and feeble attempts at characterization. Timothy and Rachel never talk about anything except for what's currently happening in the plot, so we learn very little about them. The skinwalkers themselves are single minded in their individual goals, and don't talk about anything else. The movie doesn't even exactly explain the creatures that well. For example, the evil biker skinwalkers are guided by a falcon that flies around, seeking out the kid they're looking for. They then somehow automatically know where the kid is. How do they do this? Do they have some kind of psychic link with this bird? And if they do, then why don't the good skinwalkers seem to have any kind of link with it? Is the falcon itself just evil naturally, and is helping out the bad skinwalkers on its own free will? Are they controlling it? I guess we'll have to wait for the "Director's Cut" to find out, which is certain to also explain why the good skinwalkers didn't just hide Timothy as his 13th birthday approached, instead of leaving him out in the open. Even if the evil ones didn't know where he was until early on in the film, it probably would have been a good idea.

The actors who signed onto this film seem to have known what they have been stuck with, and their displeasure shows in almost every scene. Rhona Mitra looks downright bored and is given very little to do as the mother of this kid who will supposedly change the fate of all skinwalkers. You'd think discovering your child is part of an ancient prophecy would create some kind of emotion, but she usually keeps the same facial expression in every scene. Matthew Knight as the much sought-after Timothy comes off a little bit better, but he'd better hope some better scripts come his way soon if he wants to continue having a career past the point of puberty. As the leads of the warring skinwalker groups, Elias Koteas (the leader of the heroes) has appeared in some good stuff in the past, and really should have known better than to take this job. As the lead villain, Jason Behr is completely miscast, as he is never that threatening or menacing. He looks more like the "bad boy" member of a boy band, than someone who is trying to hunt down and kill a child. Everyone else simply disappears into the background, as they are either given little to no dialogue, or they are not worth our attention to start with.
By the time the title creatures finally take their monster forms during the last 10 minutes of the movie, it's too little too late. Skinwalkers is a joke of a movie, and I can't for the life of me figure out what made someone think that this was worthy of a theatrical release. The fact that a majority of the violence has been watered down or kept off camera in an obvious attempt to turn an R-rated film to a more "family friendly" PG-13 only makes it even worse. There's nothing here to recommend, and if you really are dead set on seeing it, I'm sure it will be on DVD in about two months and on cable in less than a year. Even then, I wouldn't suggest you spend your time with it.



  • What's with werewolves in movies shooting at eachother with guns? They have claws and sharp teeth for a reason, dammit, and that's what I want to see.

    This movie won't be shown in cinemas in my country anyway, though. No big loss.

    By Blogger Ole-Christian, at 9:46 AM  

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