Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Skinwalkers (2006)

Title: Skinwalkers (2006)

Director: James Isaac

Cast: Elias Koteas, Rhona Mitra, Jason Behr, Matthew Knight


There's a sub-genre in the world of horror films, where a film is scary, but not too scary, horrifying, but not too frightning. I'm talking about the horror film aimed at kids; at the pre-teen audience. These movies feel as if hollywood was saying, you aint ready for full on horror, but you can start by watching this! I’m talking about films like Fred Dekker’s Monster Squad (1987) or Tibor Takac's The Gate (1987), the movie where these kids open a gate to hell in their own backyard. These are movies in which the main character is usually a 12 year old kid, filled with insecurities and a strong sense of awe. Skinwalkers, the werewolf film I will be reviewing today, felt a bit like that, like a genre flick made for kids.

Skinwalkers is the story of a 12 year old boy named Timothy Talbot. Timothy is a very special boy, he is a half breed between humans and werewolves. He also holds the cure for lycanthropy. A prophecy says that at the stroke of midnight on his 13th birthday, “something” is going to happen that can change the fate of all werewolves. Now, some werewolves are happy about this because they see their condition as a curse. They want nothing more then for the prophecy to be fulfilled, so they can be cured. But there is another group of werewolves that is proud of being werewolves and want nothing to do with this cure. They love being werewolves and want to remain that way. It’s this group of zealous werewolves that want to kill Timothy and stop the prophecy from coming true. Will they achieve their goal?

"Leave the granny alone...shes mine!"

Sounds cheesy don’t it? Well, it is. The problem for me with this movie was that the storyline was way to predictable, I mean, we’ve seen this story unfold a thousand times before. Once again we get another film dealing with “The Chosen One” that is going to fulfill the prophecy and destroy the evil. Come on, that has been done to death! So as the story unfolds in Skinwalkers, you feel like “oh no, here we go again”, which isn’t a good thing in my book. Still, you know what they say: “it’s not what you say, but how you say it that matters” and unfortunately the makers of Skinwalkers chose to tell their story in the most predictable way possible. With the most god awful unnatural dialog you have ever heard in your life. This was one thing I absolutely hated about this movie. How robotic the dialog sounded. The actors sounded as if they were reading everything right of the script, with no desire to make it sound believable. In my opinion this is the directors fault, for not even trying to pull a convincing performance from his actors. The director by the way is Jim Isaacs, the guy responsible for directing Jason X (2001) and most recently the killer pig movie Pig Hunt (2010). Aside from having robotic dialog, the storyline is filled with these gaping plot holes. For example, where does this prophecy come from in the first place? What is its origin? What prophet is getting all this info? Why does the moon suddenly turn red? I know it has to do with the prophecy of the “blood moon” but my question is why does it happen? So many questions arise with this movie…yet the script didn’t care to answer them.

The film does have a couple of good things going for it though. First of which is the look of the werewolves. This is something that the film got absolutely right. Each werewolf has their own distinctive look, so you can tell them apart when you see them. Even the female werewolves look completely different, sexier. Love that about this movie and it’s all thanks to the involvement of Stan Winston Studios in the make up department. Stan Winston's team are no strangers to werewolf films, having done the wolfman in The Monster Squad.   The werewolf simply look very fierce, their jaws and fangs looking really menacing! These are some of the best werewolves I’ve seen on any werewolf movie, sadly they are on this “bad” movie. Though, I wouldn’t necessarily say that this is the worst werewolf movie I have ever seen. That would be Wes Craven’s Cursed (2005), and Skinwalkers is not nearly as bad as that one.

Skinwalkers focuses on delivering action as well. There is this big action sequence somewhere around the middle of the film where the evil werewolves finally arrive at the town where all the good werewolves reside in. This town is really weird because it’s filled with empty streets, people don’t seem to inhabit it at all. So the bad werewolves come walking into town in slow motion, loading their guns and nobody gives a damn. Where is the freaking police force in this town? Apparently it’s non existent! There is this huge shoot out between good werewolves and bad werewolves where everyone pulls out their guns and its non stop blowing shit up time! Even grandma werewolf pulls out her .44 magnums and starts blowing away bad werewolves! That scene by the way, with werewolf grandma blowing away the good guys is probably the most memorable sequence in the whole film. Haven’t seen a review that doesn’t mention that scene yet, including the one I’m typing right now. So suddenly, this movie feels like one of those 80’s action flicks where they blow shit up real good. Funny part about the whole shoot out is that nobody seems to get hit! Hundreds of bullets whizzing by and not one of them hits anybody! The shoot out is kind of comical in that way, I guess its also appropriate in a PG-13 film, cause the amount of blood they can show in a PG-13 film is minimal.

Actually, to be honest, this whole film felt like a film from the 80’s for some reason. You know how sometimes you watch a film from the 80’s and suddenly you realize that back in the day movies were kind of crazier? How they didn’t give a damn if their story or premise was extremely cheesy or unbelievable as hell? Where a movie simply didn’t give a damn about being silly? That’s how this movie felt. Specially when it came to its whole prophecy angle, and the whole thing about “the moon turning red, then we will all know that the time of the prophecies fulfillment is near…” that type of thing. But also, with scenes like the big shoot out. I mean, these guys are blowing each other away in broad daylight right smack in the middle of the town and there are no cops to be seen anywhere!

The film also reminded me of something out of the 80’s because it has that whole vibe of having a kid going through the whole adventure right next to his mom all the time, or right next to a mother figure. You guys ever see Tobe Hooper’s Invaders from Mars (1986) where the kid goes through out the whole movie with his teacher right next to him taking the role of the protective mother? That’s the kind of movie Skinwalkers is, Timothy goes through out the whole film with his mom protecting him every step of the way, which makes perfect sense in a movie aimed at 12 year olds. Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t stick to its child like tone all the time. The film is aimed at kids, but it has this kind of graphic sex sequence squeezed in the middle of the film that feels totally out of place. This sex scene was actually pretty similar to the one in The Howling (1981), where these two people are making out in the middle of the forest, and as they make out, they start to turn into werewolves. In a movie like The Howling, that scene fits perfectly well, but not on a PG-13 movie for kids like Skinwalkers. This uneven tone of the film is probably what made it difficult for studios to market it. Is it a movie for 12 year olds, or is it a movie for adults? Usually that kind of uncertainty in the marketing of a film spells certain death at the box office.

A lot of people seem to think that this is a terrible movie; I say it does have some bad things going for it, but in all honesty, if I was a 12 year old kid watching this movie I would probably have loved it. It has similarities with films like Werewolves on Wheels (1971) because all the evil werewolves ride motorcycles and with films like The Lost Boys (1988) because it deals with the battle between monsters that want to stop being monsters and the monsters that wave their monster flag proudly. This isn’t the worst werewolf movie ever made, and it isn’t the best either. My advice is, watch this one with a 12 year old and watch them love it. You might laugh at the dialog, but you’ll make that 12 year old kid inside of you happy.

Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5

Make up tests for Skinwalkers

SkinwalkersWerewolves on WheelsThe Monster Squad (20th Anniversary Edition) [Blu-ray]


Unknown said...

I found this film to be simply "okay." It had the always smokin' Rhona Mitra which certainly helped but as you pointed out, it was pretty formulaic to the point of distraction at times. Still, some of the action sequences were fairly decent but I'm glad I didn't pay money to see it.

Fritz "Doc" Freakenstein said...

A nice fair review, Francisco, of a generally unfairly berated film. I’m not saying that I liked it, buty like you, I thought there were a few things to like about Skinwalkers. I rented this a couple of years back and was most disappointed by the lack of any real horrific elements. Some blame the PG-13 rating, but I blame whoever wrote the lame script. The whole prophecy angle – Lame! The Blood (red) Moon angle (which is never explained) – lame! The clichéd opposing skinwalker factions – those that want to fit in the human world and those that want to live free – ultra lame! Skinwalkers feels like it was adapted from a poorly written YA novel, but as far as I’ve been able to research it, all the blame lies with the three credited scriptwriters. Two of the three writers are writers for the show Psych; which is hardly a bastion for realistic drama. The director, who sets the tone of the film, has as background as an effects person on some pretty mediocre films. His only other directing credits before Skinwalkers were Jason X (as you mentioned) and House III. Hardly credits to make one excited to see this movie. Judging from this limited sample, it seems as if the director would have preferred to make a more graphic R rated picture. However, I don’t think more graphic violence or some sex and nudity would have made it a better film. I do agree with you – and we seem to be in the minority – that I liked the look of the werewolves in Skinwalkers. The fact that they have an individual look is an original concept and it’s a shame these creature effects were wasted on this film. Your rating of 2 ½ out of 5 sounds about right to me.

Hey… I kind of liked Curse!

J.D.: Rhona Mitra is indeed “smokin’”, but Natassia Malthe is flaming hot!

Unknown said...

I really admire this film. Nice cast, great location of filming!

Will said...

*sigh* Rhona. *sigh*

Does that makeup test look like one of those Avatar kitties just without the blue???

Anyways, I caught the last half hour of this movie and was impressed DESPITE the PG-13. I may have to give it a full view now. Nice review.

I Like Horror Movies said...

I wanted to like Skinwalkers more, its a decent premise with a weak execution. Like you, I dont consider it a complete disaster Franco, but so many things could have easily been changed to make it a stronger overall film.

Franco Macabro said...

@J.D.: Agree bout Rhona Mitra, she's a smoking hot momma! As you say, the formula distracts, like when the old indian guy is driving the car and he starts talking all about the 'blood moon" and what felt so old.

@Fritz: Thats what I hated the most, how they simply mentioned things, but never really went into them. And whenever a film has more then one writer, its a sign that things will not turn out well. And as you mentioned, another thing to worry about is when they put an fx guy to helm a film. Just look at how Spawn, Virus and Eragorn turned out, three films made by special fx guys.

Thanks for the awesome reply Fritzzzzzzz!

@elgartcartalaga: Hey, glad you enjoyed it.

@Will: If theres one thing to admire, its the werewolves. They all got a distinctive look to them.

@Carl: Totally Agree compadre!


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