Skinwalkers translates to Yenal Dooshi in the Navajo Language. It refers to the Native American legend about human beings who have the supernatural ability to transform to any animal they wish. Other folklore from other parts of the world gives references to Lycans (Werewolves) - definition taken from the dictionary
SKINWALKERS is directed by James Isaac and is very loosely based on the legendary folklore of Indian tribes. I didn't exactly hate "Skinwalkers" but I didn't exactly like it either. I was really disappointed that it didn't explore the Native American folklore that the title felt more like a marketing "gimmick" rather than a representation of its main premise. Too bad, there is so little information about those tales. The film is being directed by Isaac; after his definite misfire "Jason X" will definitely give the impression not to expect much, so I had to sit down with my popcorn on a very lazy afternoon at home.
There is a struggle between two factions of cursed werewolves called "Skinwalkers". One side wants the curse to end while one-side embraces what they are. You guessed it; the good guys are actually Skinwalkers that avoid the lust for blood and the bad guys are the exact opposite with the bloodlust raging within. There's an ancient prophecy that a boy (played by Matthew Knight) will rise on his 13th birthday and end the curse. Skinwalkers who embrace the curse led by Varek (Jason Behr) will stop at nothing to kill him while the ones who want the curse to end led by Jonas (Elias Koteas) will do anything to protect him.
Skinwalkers is NOT a horror film but rather an action film with "horror" elements. The film is a straight up werewolf movie without any intricate storytelling or character development. Remember the good old days when horror films were a dime a dozen in the multiplexes? "Skinwalkers" follows the same formulas and clichés, an ancient prophecy for two sides to fight upon, humans caught in the middle, a boy and his mother (in this case played by mega-babe Rhona Mitra), cheesy script and an anti-hero seeking closure. If you see this movie with the right expectations, I have no doubts that one may be entertained. I guess it wouldn't be so bad if it only had one motive: to provide us with "junk" entertainment. However, most of the time the film tried to take itself seriously, I guess its main weakness is; the film lacked little discipline.
There is some decent action footages to be had with "Skinwalkers". Highlights include a decent gun battle in the middle of the town of Huguenot; (I know) I really wanted to laugh since it almost felt like a Robert Rodriguez (He rocks by the way) "wanna-be inspired" gunfight. I suppose it was its intention, as the movie also has a bad-a$$ chick (played by Natasha Malthe, Bloodrayne 2) who almost looked like a crossover between "Planet Terror" and "Desperado". How come "bad" “Skinwalkers” have to ride Harleys and clad in the usual "biker" look while the "good" Skinwalkers look like regular Joes in flannel shirts? I guess the movie is making ‘evil’ look cool and good means ‘blending in’? The usual Hollywood stereotypes are present and I believe there is only one Native American person in the movie, which I found disappointing, since Skinwalkers is based on Indian folklore more than anything else. There is also the mom versus monster and the monster versus monster face-offs, which is regrettably, doesn't offer anything new to the horror fan.
As for the cast and script, well, the dialogue doesn't have any bad language, which is surprising for a film that wants to project an attitude and since evil usually uses harsh language. Elias Koteas actually steals the show as the boy's uncle (His character is the only one who carried any weight) and Rhona Mitra is the distraught mom who had no idea that her son is the "messiah" for the “Skinwalkers”. The rest of the cast is so flat and the acting is wooden. Also, the added twist with Kaleb, the boy's father had the potential to turn things around but it wasn't developed well that it just felt like a poor attempt to add "meat" to the film's premise. To its credit at the very least, the supposed mystery behind the prophecy is not of the usual mystical nature with a red moon (I've seen an actual red moon) foretelling the boy's rise and I felt it had potential. The make-up EFX by Stan Winston is reminiscent of older werewolf flicks and while offers nothing new, they were pretty cool. Did I already mention mega-babes; Rhona Mitra, Natasha Malthe and Sarah Carter? (They're worthy of an extra star)
"Skinwalkers" is a movie with a lot of inconsistencies with plenty of plot holes but one thing it just ISN'T is dull and boring. The overused plot elements and devices combined with the hollow dialogue do hurt the film; perhaps this is one of those instances that the use of bad language may have helped this film. I mean it's ok to make a cheesy fun horror flick but don't play with genres unless you know which direction you're going. I suppose it can be diverting for viewers with low expectations. I really wanted to like it but in the end, it comes so short of other great pure action-horror "hybrids" such as "Dog Soldiers", "Vampires" and "From Dusk till Dawn". "Skinwalkers" is a movie that requires minimum use of our brains, just be ready to roll your eyes from time to time and sit down on your favorite chair to relax.
RENTAL [2 ½- stars] a good rental on a lazy, rainy afternoon.
Please note that the U.S. theatrical and DVD releases have been edited from a R-rating cut to a more friendlier PG-13 cut. The R-Rated cut is available in Asia and Europe.
VIDEO/AUDIO: The video transfer is exceptional, the colors are natural with very strong contrast and black levels. The 6.1 DTS-ES soundtrack is very clear and crisp. 4 Stars for the DVD quality.