There are two ways to get me to watch a horror movie. #1. It either has to have a really interesting or really ridiculous plot, and #2. an actor or actress that I like has to be in it. Though that’s usually a way to get me to watch most things. “Skinwalkers” was one such movie.
Lets face it. It didn’t get great reviews. Rotten Tomatoes gave it 14%. Ouch. And the critics hated it. Still, it had Rhona Mitra in it and it was about werewolves. Did I mention it was only $0.99 to rent on iTunes?
The movie starts out with a Navajo definition for Skinwalker. Essentially it’s a werewolf. We didn’t really need the explanation. It moves on to tell the entire premise of the movie…via text, probably in case the audience couldn’t figure the obvious out. The premise? There will be four blood moons and on the fourth one, when a half-breed kid turns thirteen, he will have the ability to erase the curse. Of course there are those werewolves that want to be healed and a bunch of badass ones who don’t. The badass ones want to get a hold of that boy.
We meet Tim (Matthew Knight), said soon-to-be thirteen year old half-breed boy, and his mom Rachel (Mitra). They live in a small town where everyone, and I do mean EVERYONE, but them knows about this prophecy. How Rachel has never caught on that everyone in her family seems to disappear on the nights there’s a full moon is beyond me, but she’s living in blissful ignorance.
Along comes a gang of badass werewolves who are looking for the boy. There’s an impressive shootout in town where grandma (Barbara Gordon) pulls a .50 caliber gun from her purse and Rachel and Tim are ushered to safety by Rachel’s brother-in-law Jonas (Elias Koteas). We spend the rest of the movie watching Rachel, Tim and Uncle Jonas, (along with a few other good guy werewolves) being chased in a Winnebago-like truck by the baddies on motorcycles, stopping only when the moon comes out so they can transform. Their only goal, hold out until Tim turns 13 in three nights. Of course there are a few twists and turns along the way. Are they unexpected twists and turns? No, not really. I kind of saw them coming and you probably will too.
There were a few good things about the movie. While the acting overall was sub-par there were a few spotlights. First, it was wonderful to actually see Rhona Mitra act. I mean, I knew she could and she does the badass thing very well, but Rachel had some tough scenes and Mitra pulled them off with a natural ease. It was nice to see her in a roll that didn’t rely on T&A. Elias Koteas did a nice job with Jonas and one of my favorite “guy in everything” actors, Tom Jackson, was good as Will, the non-werewolf caretaker friend.
The werewolves were pretty cool too. No, they weren’t the cop-out “we turn into really big wolves during the full moon” (*cough*Twilight*cough*) werewolves. They were the bi-pedal, scruffy, big fanged “I wouldn’t want to meet you in a dark alley” werewolves. They were like a low-budget form of the werewolves from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” combined with the Lycans from “Underworld.” Werewolves (or Lycans) turning into giant wolves is a personal pet peeve of mine. I feel that it’s a let down and usually indicative of a low budget or lazy storytelling. Giant wolves aren’t very scary when they’re not attacking. They just aren’t. The Lycans in “Underworld?” Now those were scary! Turning into a werewolf is supposed to be a curse. There are plenty of people out there who would love to turn into a wolf once a month. No one wants to turn into a big, scary, drooling, snarling monster. You aren’t supposed to like transforming into a werewolf, hence the “curse” part. “Skinwalkers'” werewolves lie somewhere between scary/creepy and low budget.
The bad? I kept wondering when they stopped for gas or to go to the bathroom but I guess the practical side of a movie-long chase is irrelevant. Filming nearly the entire movie as a chase scene got pretty old half way in. If they had cut that in half and filed in some plot after the movie ends it could have been a much better film, or at least more interesting. The character Tim was a bit of a let down. Every line seemed forced. Yeah, he’s a kid and maybe he’s gotten better since then. Maybe this was his first movie. That’s fine. I just didn’t believe he was really scared. I believed he was a child actor pretending to be scared when he was really thinking about what kind of ice cream he was going to get off of the Kraft Services table.
Here’s the thing. The movie has a good concept and I actually think if they did a sequel picking up where they left off (and hired new writers who were better at developing climax) it could be a pretty good werewolf movie. “Skinwalkers” just fails in the plot department and not even that there’s not a good plot because there is! There was just too much filler. Too much with the chasing and not enough climax. By the time the big battle came around I was apathetic about whether or not they caught Tim, but was too lazy to fast forward because I like big fight sequences. I will say this, the final scene has excellent comedic timing and interesting cinematography. If only the rest of the film was that good.