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Movie Review Skinwalkers

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Skinwalkers (2006) directed by James Isaac stars Rhona Mitra (Rachel Talbot), Matthew Knight (Timothy), Elias Koteas (Jonas), Jason Behr (Varek), Kim Coates (Zo), Natassia Malthe (Sonja), Rogue Johnston (Grenier), Sarah Carter (Katherine), Barbara Gordon (Nana), Lyriq Bent (Doak) and Tom Jackson (Will).

There’s a prophecy (isn’t there always?) that a boy will be born who holds the mythical cure to the curse. On his thirteenth birthday the moon will go blood red for three nights and then it will all be over. Unbeknownst to his mother, Rachel, young Timothy is that boy. The small town they live in is aware of this, and they protect mother and son from the opposing forces that come in the shape of Varek and his pack: Zo, Sonya, and Grenier.

This is actually a werewolf movie, hence the title Skinwalkers, though those two beasts are not necessarily synonymous. The plot is fairly straight forward. The good werewolves want to be cured from the curse and they don’t eat people. The bad werewolves want to keep going and they do eat people. The twist there is that once you eat human flesh you get corrupted to the wild side.

The basic premise is pretty thin, but it could work, given that it turns out the leader of the bad wolves, Varek, is actually the brother of the leader of the good wolves, Jonas, as well as the father of the boy he’s looking to kill and the husband of Rachel, so we get a little free Cain-and-Abel action thrown in. So the big question is: with all this, and snarling fights, and guns and knives and fisticuffs and elongated canines… why doesn’t it work?

I like werewolves. I like the idea of the id run wild, the beast within, and I generally enjoy the working class nature of them. The problem here is that this turns into a shoot-out a few too many times and there’s not enough wolf in these wolves to satisfy me, personally. There’s blood and meat galore, a noble quest and an evil villain, but there’s still next to no dramatic tension. I’ve said before that for these kinds of movies it helps if the actors play it straight, taking their roles seriously. The actors of all this seem to do that, but there’s just not enough meat on the bone and sometimes that just makes the acting… bad. The end result is surprisingly bland and run-of-the-mill pulp horror clichées, though there’s certainly enough sex and violence to satisfy the Id-side of the myth. The actual transformed werewolves don’t really work for me either. There is a reason, beyond the influence of the moon, as to why we never get to see them in direct light.

There is a complete and total lack of pack dynamic to the interaction between the two werewolf cadres that leaves me mystified. Most werewolves on screen travel alone, so there could have been something there to explore, but there’s hardly even any regular interpersonal dynamic and that’s just too bad. The bad guys are traveling on motorcycle, so we could at least have had a little “bad to the bone” moment with all the leather and cut off denim they’re wearing, but instead they come across as four posers who can’t remember weather or not they’ve already racked their shotguns.

The most incredibly stupid plot twist occurs at the very end, though, when the cheap Sarah Connor rip-off Rachel forgives and forgets everything the redeemed and delivered Varek has done in order to travel with him and use their sons blood to cure werewolves any- and everywhere. It’s one of those moments when you have to curb your instinct to throw popcorn at the screen and let out a howl of your own. There are so many things wrong with that notion that I actually won’t bother ranting about it, it’s that bad.

Exposition is generally pretty insulting to this viewer, but even more insulting is superimposing the images of the actors over the transformed werewolves in case you can’t figure out who is who. Again, I have to rein in the impulse to hurl popcorn at the screen. All in all, this is not worth wasting your time on if you want good quality growl for your buck.

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