Skinwalkers (2006)

Directed By: James Isaac
Written By: James DeMonaco
  Todd Harthan
Starring: Rhona Mitra
  Jason Behr
  Elias Koteas
  Kim Coates

Skinwalkers is as glossy and good-looking as it is devoid of any sort of emotional or intellectual depth. It’s a classic case of style being favoured over substance.

A Mother (Rhona Mitra) and her young son live a quiet life in a rural town surrounded by family and friends, who, unbeknownst to her are skinwalkers; creatures from Navajo legend that are akin to werewolves. As per the very same legend, an opposing pack of skinwalkers rides into town in order to kill the boy before his 13th birthday. If they don’t then it will present an opportunity for their ‘curse’ to end and therefore jeopardise their very existence. Add to that several complications including the lead villain (Jason Behr) actually being the boys’ Father, whom everyone long thought was dead and you have a passable storyline. It’s the braindead manner in which that storyline is executed that ruins proceedings.

Saying that I hated Skinwalkers on the basis that it has no substance is actually only half the story. Don’t get me wrong, there are occasions when I love nothing more than disengaging my brain, sinking a few alcoholic beverages and being entertained by mindless action, usually involving Jason Statham or one or more American wrestlers-turned-‘actors’. The problem here is that while Skinwalkers certainly ticks the ‘mindless’ box, the action that it offers isn’t enough to make up for it. Sure, there are lots of guns, motorcycles, leather-clad females and (sort of) bad-ass werewolves but they all fail to meet the standards that they should. It’s stylish enough but not a lot really happens.

The acting is all very melodramatic stuff, with the ever reliable Elias Koteas being the only real highlight, and it has much more in common with a US daytime soap than a horror movie, removing any of the tension in one fell swoop. The actors, much like the rest of the visual aspects, are pretty but insubstantial. The gore is all very ‘safe’ too, in the respect that the audience doesn’t get to see very much and when they do, it’s usually from a distance. When these elements combine, all we’re really left with is a Twilight-esque, teen-oriented soap opera with some half-hearted lycanthropic lore thrown in for good measure.

Surprisingly, for a film that I wasn’t enjoying very much in the first place, I was a little angry when it ended prematurely. At around only an hour and twenty minutes, I felt short-changed and wanted more explanation, more action, more of a climax, anything to make me feel like I hadn’t wasted a portion of my life on what is essentially a feature length version of a 14 year old boys’ masturbatory fantasy (see : the utterly superfluous sex scene). It’s akin only to the sort of sinking feeling one gets when they watch a sub-standard horror movie only to get to the credits and find they’ve unwittingly viewed Uwe Boll’s latest cack-fest, can never rewind time and un-watch it and are now a lesser person for the experience.

The only real saving grace is the werewolf make-up. Instead of the obvious CGI that could have been involved, the werewolves were left in the very capable hands of the late Stan Winston and his decades of field experience. They are wonderful creations that hark back to a simpler time and give the film its only genuine boast.

Skinwalkers could have been much more than the sum of its parts. It is, in essence, a movie for morons; the cinematic equivalent of a Baywatch Babe, nice to look at but useless when it comes to intelligent interaction. If it was made to appeal to teenaged boys, then the makers have achieved their goal. If it was made to appeal to any sort of wider audience then the whole thing is an unfortunate exercise in redundancy. It’s surprising that James Isaac went on to direct the vastly superior and exponentially more enjoyable Pig Hunt. Let’s just hope that means he’s learnt his lesson and progressed from lamentable tripe like this. Avoid.

Rating: ★★½☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

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