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Skinwalkers (2007)
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by Todd LaPlace

"Neutered thrills."
1 stars

With only a few exceptions, I’m not the biggest advocate of gore porn, mostly because many of those flicks sacrifice a story for gratuitous amounts of blood and guts (and quite often, female nudity). But I’ll gladly take another screening of “Hostel: Part II” or “Saw II” than another pathetic attempt at PG-13 horror. What made the filmmakers of “Skinwalkers” (which includes the director of “Jason X” — ‘nuff said?) think that we’d be interested in watching a group of werewolves stage a gunfight on a small town street? Is that really supposed to be scary?

Before dissecting August horror flick “Skinwalkers,” I’d like to take a few moments at the beginning of this review to mourn a tragic loss. For the past eight years, “Eye of the Beholder” has held a special place in my heart, not because it marks a sentimental moment in my life or because it was during that film that I decided to announce my undying devotion to Ashley Judd thrillers. Instead, “Eye of the Beholder” has simply been the single worst movie I’ve ever seen in my entire life, which includes a screening of a horror movie called “Pigs.” I’m not sure if it’s because Ewan McGregor’s character enjoys talking with his dead daughter or because as he shadows Judd’s femme fatale character, he seemingly travels by snow globes, but I thought “Beholder” would forever be solidified in its place at the top of the worst list. Sadly, I was wrong.

If you haven’t figured it out already, the top spot now belongs to “Skinwalkers,” a mess of a werewolf thriller that’s so unscary that even my jumpy, horror junkie screening companion was bored. I’ve seen arguments that the film does actually work when viewed as a B-grade horror flick, primarily because it’s aware and subsequently embraces its cheesy nature, but that just seems like a cheap cop-out. There’s pretty much nothing worse than when someone refers to a movie as “so bad its good,” because most of the time, that just means its god-awful bad.

Mere days before his thirteenth birthday, Timothy (Matthew Knight) suddenly finds himself amidst a small town stand-off between a group of leather-clad strangers and his elderly grandmother (Barbara Gordon). Neither he nor his mother (Rhona Mitra) understand what’s going on, but the rest of Timothy’s friends and family, led by uncle Jonas (Elias Koteas, who’s much too good for this schlock), seem to be ready for the fight, armed with weaponry that seems to have that annoying cinematic habit of barely missing its intended target. It seems that the two groups are warring factions of the same werewolf clan (sorry, I refuse to call them skinwalkers or any other stupid synonym they come up with), and Timothy is the preteen everyone needs. Jonas’s group is sure he’s the prophesized boy that will end the curse, while the leather bunch, led by Varek (Jason Behr), need him dead to ensure the continuation of their natural mayhem.

Because it’s distributed by After Dark Films, the company that’s hellbent on destroying horror movies by releasing nothing but the worst examples of the genre, the expectations for this flick were never that high, but it’s utterly astonishing how low these films manage to sink the genre. It seems like director Jim Issac, whose previous efforts include another horror bomb, the franchise-decimating “Jason X,” and his trio of hack screenwriters (why does it always seem to take multiple people to churn out this drivel?) haven’t met a single hackneyed idea they haven’t loved, from the energy-killing heart-to-heart chat in the second act (luckily they managed to stage it around a picturesque lake) to the superfluous PG-13 unsexy sexy scene between Varek and his statuesque girlfriend (Natassia Malthe). And lets not forget the staging the opening fight (with its convenient cache of guns) in the middle of an abandoned street (complete with a strategically-placed gas station full of combustible materials) and the final showdown in a dark abandoned warehouse, aka the good werewolves secret stronghold that’s inconspicuously surrounded by barrels on fire. After all, nothing says terror like a trite fight scene.

In this case, nothing really does say terror quite like a convincing werewolf, and when it comes to special effects, “Skinwalkers” scored a coup when they got multiple Oscar-winner Stan Winston to helm the creature effects. Unfortunately, I think I saw better werewolves during my third grade Halloween party. I’m not entirely convinced I should blame this on Winston (witness his previous work on films like “Jurassic Park,” “Edward Scissorhands,” “Aliens” and all three “Terminator” films) but rather on what was assuredly a paltry budget that allowed for little more than a few sets of novelty teeth and colored contact lenses. The surviving characters do get to show off their full costumes in the climax, but by that point, it’s far too little too late. This neutered PG-13 showing had already easily knocked “Eye of the Beholder” out of the top spot, sadly with nary a snow globe in sight.

Seriously, Jim Issac? You get a feature budget and a legendary special effects wizard and this is what we get in return? Either way, enjoy your title. I have a feeling that nothing will be beating you for a long time to come.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15528&reviewer=401
originally posted: 08/20/07 14:01:51
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User Comments

11/11/18 Mark Louis Baumgart Decent acting and story, terrible ending, would love to see the unedited version. 4 stars
5/10/08 Tabitha Rabisa one of the best werewolf moves made in this century 5 stars
8/13/07 Ian Cowart This movie was horrible. Not to mention the inexplicible redemption of Varek 1 stars
8/11/07 William Goss Werewolf craptacular'd be better off rated R and released closer to, say, the year 1987. 1 stars
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  10-Aug-2007 (PG-13)
  DVD: 27-Nov-2007



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