Skinwalkers - Movie Review

  • 28 November 2007

Rating: 1.5 out of 5

Apparently, it's pretty hard to update the classic movie monsters. When filmmakers aren't turning every well known cinematic creep into a fey Eurotrash version of their former scary selves, they're reinventing the mythology into a mindless "gee whiz" joke. So it only seems fair that after zombies got hyper-activated and vampires gained the glum Goth seal of approval, werewolves would be next on the pointless reinvention list. And thanks to the New Age Native American tweak entitled Skinwalkers, these formerly ferocious beasts got the incredibly short end of the post-modern scream stick.

There's an ongoing war between two lupine factions. On the one side are those who feel that the ancient ability to shapeshift is a curse, and want desperately for an ambiguous prophecy to be fulfilled. Then there are the blood-addicted, supernatural junkies who love killing so much that they want to keep the foretold omen from occurring. And what is this fabled forecast? Seems a young boy, born of human mother and wolfman seed, will turn 13 and... well, that part's not all that clear. Apparently, once the kid hits puberty, he will put the depressed beasts out of their misery while buzz killing the other lycanthropes happy hunting. So naturally, one side protects the brat (named Timmy), while the other is looking to carve up his adolescent guts.

In the unsure hands of Jason X director James Isaac, what we wind up with is a creaky, quasi-spaghetti splatter fest without a drop of blood or a set of believable baddies. It really is hard to tell what's more depressing here -- the lack of gore (the film was apparently ravaged to earn that mainstream mandated PG-13) or the so-called "special" effects created by Stan Winston's studios. While fright fans can accept a lack of gore, the incredibly lame werewolf makeup is an unconscionable fright film shonda. The creatures look like pissed off members of the Beauty and the Beast touring company, except far less realistic. It's safe to say that monkeys with a pile of modeling clay and their slight simian knowledge of horror movie icons could devise better beasts than these.

The acting doesn't help matters either. Among the good guy/ghouls are Elias Koteas (as low key leader Jonas) and the mannequin-like Rhona Mitra (who plays Timmy's brooder as a combination of wide-eyed wails), while evil is represented by the hellbent for leather and rock and roll clichés of Jason Behr (as the cocksure Varek) and Natassai Malthe (as his always horny hot side-chick). Among abandoned, atmospheric one horse towns and equally unoccupied woodland settings, the battle to save/slaughter Tim rages in Hong Kong-copied slo-mo bullet ballets and one too many animalistic shrieks. When not emptying semi-automatics into each other, we get moments of werewolf sex and scenes where our heroes apply an elaborate series of restraints to themselves so as to survive the night without the temptation of tearing flesh.

In the end, none of it makes a lick of sense. Guns can apparently kill these fiends (though possibly with the help of some silvered ammunition) while their own bite fails to turn a single slain victim. Timmy's power is never made clear, and when it finally arrives, it seems like the biggest case of paranormal happenstance in the history of monsters (either that, or a direct rip-off of X-Men 3). Issac wants to make a moody, revisionist macabre where reality merges with the unreal to create a grave sense of plausibility. But the dumb as dirt effects, along with the paltry performances, mean that Skinwalkers stinks like a mangy animal's fetid coat. You'll be "howling" with laughter over this unnecessary creature update.

The DVD contains a making-of featurette, pre-visualization and digital effects comparisons, deleted scenes, and an audio commentary with director Isaac.

This bites.

Image caption Skinwalkers

Facts and Figures

Year: 2007

Run time: 110 mins

In Theaters: Friday 10th August 2007

Box Office USA: $1.0M

Distributed by: Lions Gate Films

Reviews 1.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 14%
Fresh: 5 Rotten: 32

IMDB: 4.6 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: James Isaac

Producer: Dennis Berardi, Don Carmody, Robert Kulzer

Screenwriter: James DeMonaco, Todd Harthan, James Roday

Starring: Jason Behr as Varek, Elias Koteas as Jonas, Rhona Mitra as Rachel Talbot, Natassia Malthe as Sonja, Kim Coates as Zo, Sarah Carter as Katherine, Tom Jackson as Will

Also starring: Lyriq Bent, Don Carmody, Robert Kulzer, James DeMonaco, James Roday