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Wednesday, January 2, 2008

DVD REVIEW: Skinwalkers (2006) *

Skinwalkers (2007) theatrical

PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence and action, some sexual material and language)
1 hr. 50 min.

written by: Todd Jason, James DeMonaco & James Roday
produced by: Don Carmody & Dennis Beradi
directed by: James Isaac

Now here's a movie with no teeth that really bites. It's bad in a fun, laughable ways, and I'm not using "laughable" figuratively. I mean I literally laughed out loud at some of the things that happen in the film, things that were meant to be taken seriously. It's a "horror thriller" that is far from horrific and has less thriller than Michael Jackson (well, let's face it, Jackson has quite a horror thriller going for him all by himself). This film, deserves to be featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 for so many reasons but even then many of the films on that show had some type of cult status. This one will never be a cult classic, in fact I don't know of any cult that would like it.

So, um, there are two groups of werewolves, the good ones who have assimilated into human society, hold down steady jobs in a small town (although you really only see them in this town. Huh?) and lock themselves up during the full moon so they don't hurt anyone; and the bad, sexy ones who roam the woods, cruise around in Sol-mo on their motorcycles and love devouring humans every chance they get. The bad ones, led by Garek (Jason Be hr), are looking for a young boy who is the subject of an ancient prophecy involving a full red moon that could spell doom for them all.

It would been really cool if these bad wolfie's were trying to find this specific boy amongst several children. They could scour a playground or a school yard or even a day camp but that would make the plot too complicated, I suppose. Instead, we only get a simple and stupid plot and only one boy throughout the entire film. Right away we know this is the boy or we'd be pretty stupid, wouldn't we? So, his name is Tim (Matthew Knight), and he lives with his mother Rachel (Rhona Mithra) and her dead husband's brother, Jonas (Elias Kites) in a small town. Unbeknownst to any of these three (except maybe Jonas), Tim's daddy was a werewolf (you'd think his mother woulda known) and since she was normal, when Tim turns 13 in a few days, he'll have the ability to end "the curse" of the werewolves forever. How will this boy end this curse exactly? It's never revealed, thus we can care less what happens.

Matthew Knight and Rhona Mitra in After Dark Films' Skinwalkers

Since the bad guys enjoy their lycan-fastic life, it goes without saying that the want the boy dead. Meanwhile, Tim and his mom are clueless. They don't know any of this. They don't even know that Jonas and his entire family are the good werewolves, or as he likes to call them "skinwalkers". Fortunately for them, everyone else in the east coast town of Huegonot does and they all carry weapons just in case some bad wolfies happen to roll into town. Apparently, they've been expecting the bad guys to come looking for Tim -- which is why, when Varek and his gang do arrive, every person in town has a shotgun handy with which to engage in a shootout in the middle of Main Street. This includes Tim's nana (Barbara Gordon) who is actually the boy's first line of defense, I really wish I just made up.

Thus begins a battle between all the skinwalkers, good versus bad....well, at least between the small groups representing each side, anyway. There's not much indication that this "epic struggle" affects more than about 10 people, which makes the movie seem even more lightweight than it is. As soon as I saw that the climactic showdown occurs in an abandoned warehouse I just laughed even more. I mean come on, THE most cliched of showdown locales! It just proves that director James Isaac ("Jason X") and his "trio of writers" weren't trying very hard here. Or maybe they were and their just really, really bad at what they do.

So, the movie's a dud. It's not the worst movie I've ever seen or of the year, for that matter. I wanted it to be good cuz I like Koteas and Mitra (both were in last year's "Shooter") and look forward to the roles they take. Maybe they just wanted to work on something dumb or could be that they liked filming in Canada. But in the end it wound up being something close to some bad horror film you'd see on Cinemax. It's silly and takes itself entirely too seriously (they shoulda focused on the mythical aspect of the actual term "skinwalkers" if they wanted to go that route) and it looks like it should have gone directly to DVD. Most bad movies are aggressively bad, irritating in some way or maybe even annoying. "Skinwalkers" isn't any of those, it's just dumb and predictable but it's certainly not dull.

Natassia Malthe in After Dark Films' Skinwalkers
Hot werewolf babes can't save this stinker.
Special Features:
Lionsgate obviously has some faith in this film or they wanted as much marketability as possible come time for the DVD treatment. Therefore, they are surprisinglt a handful of features here, none of which I viewed. There's an audio commentary with director Isaac, a collection of deleted scenes (maybe they shoulda kept them in?) and a standard "Making-of" featurette. From the praise the F/X get, you'd swear this was the second coming of Rob Bottin. Still, the only 'howling' you'll be doing is at the lame storyline. Finally, the CGI used gets a before/after, pre-visualization/final digital version comparison, and there's the original theatrical trailer. Again, this is a decent assortment of bonus material, especially when you consider the number of good horror movies that wind with bare bones.
The Skinny:
  • The film was originally rated R with a length of 110 minutes (1 hour and 50 minutes). Nearly 19 minutes of footage was removed and the film was re-rated PG-13 for with a length of 91 minutes (1 hour and 31 minutes).
  • The film contains plenty of plot holes and it is painfully obvious whenever something was edited out. The plot holes could be because 19 minutes was removed and a sloppy execution in editing.
  • There is as of right now no unrated or director's cut of the film. While the box says 110 minutes, the film is only 91 minutes.
  • Skinwalkers had no advance screenings for critics, though Lionsgate did provide DVD screeners to those who asked. Maitland McDonagh of TVGuide.com noted that "the emphasis is more on conventional action than on man-to-wolf metamorphosis effects and the subsequent beastly mayhem," and said the movie was "briskly paced and features a couple of clever twists on genre conventions before getting bogged down".
  • Frank Lovece of Film Journal International said that, "Before flagging toward the end to become a second-rate Terminator 2, this Canadian-made action drama sparks an old-fashioned B-movie charge — it's welcome-to-the-grindhouse all over again with such delicious conceits as a town of werewolf-citizens and a pistol-packing grandma going it gangsta-style".
  • The visual effects are by effects house Mr. X, and the creature effects by Stan Winston Studio. Despite the praise given to the creature effects by Stan Winston, the film received mostly negative reviews.
  • The film was originally announced for theatrical release on December 1, 2006, but was later pushed to March 30, 2007, and July 27, and finally August 10. Still, I never saw it released at all in the theaters. Sometimes a studio knows when it has a dud, I guess.
  • The film was shot in Ontario, Canada.

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