A war has been raging between those who want the curse to end and those who embrace the powers of the beast.
According to Indian legend, a thirteen-year-old boy will bring an end to all Skinwalkers.
This is the text that begins Skinwalkers, a werewolf film released theatrically last year that received an avalanche of negative reviews. I felt a little trepid about watching this movie, expecting something atrocious. I was surprised that I ended up liking it a little. The film has several fundamental flaws, but it's not nearly as god-awful as some reviewers would have you believe.
The war referenced in the quote above is between two sects of werewolves: those who enjoy being evil and feeding on the blood of the living and those who don't. Why Tim, the boy who is about to turn 13, is predestined to end this werewolf curse does get explained fairly early on - he's a "half-breed" with a human mother - but as with most fantasy horror flicks, its logic seems flimsy. Why 13? Why not 18 when the kid could vote the werewolves out of office? Or 21, when he could drink them under the table? Oh well. Anyway, bad werewolves on motorcycles are after the good, family-oriented werewolves who are sheltering the kid. Much PG-13 rated mayhem and violence ensues.
Believe it or not, I did find some good things going for this flick. There's a certain kinetic energy to some of the action scenes, for instance, that's a little reminiscent of John Carpenter's Vampires from a decade ago. In fact, this movie is, at times, more shoot-em-up in empty towns than an actual horror film. Producer Dennis Berardi admits the filmmakers were inspired by classic Westerns in one of the DVD's special features, and Westerns were what I had in mind during the first major battle of the film, with the two sects brandishing firearms and having a showdown on a deserted main street. Another nice thing is that a fairly surprising, unexpected plot twist occurs midway through the film.
Admittedly, however, the film itself is rather silly. When you see a grandmother in the first major firefight shooting pistols in both hands, you'll know that you're in for some B-movie cheese. The silliness is only punctuated by some rather unconvincing visual effects work. A red moon is prominent throughout the film, since the full moon is supposed to be red when Tim turns 13. The night skies are laughably rendered - Are those clouds drifting behind the full moon? And even though the full moon is out, lightning strikes every four of five seconds during the movie's finale when the two heads of the werewolf clans have their final smackdown. Add to this a rather trite ending whose resolution seems completely out of place considering the movie's narrative, and I can see why so many hated Skinwalkers.
Still, I was never bored with the movie and found it modestly entertaining. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who isn't a genre fan, though.
Skinwalkers is presented in a 16x9 widescreen version. As with other Lionsgate DVD releases, the image quality is quite good. While the visual effects themselves are lacking and unconvincing, there are a number of nice autumn-flavored outdoor scenes that look vivid and flush with color.
This film is presented with two English language audio options: 6.1 DTS-ES Audio and 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround EX Audio. I listened to the latter option and found it to be reasonably pleasant. The score and sound effects were loud, but not over-the-top. Most dialogue was clear in the mix, though a few exchanges were low and underrepresented.
Subtitles are also available in English and Spanish.
Skinwalkers has quite a few extras. To begin, when the disc is played, trailers for Monster Squad: 20th Anniversary Edition, Fido, The Descent, and Fangs precede the menu. They're also accessible, as a group, through an "Available From Lionsgate" link on the Special Features menu, along with the original theatrical trailer for Skinwalkers as a separate link.
A deleted scenes section contains a number of short scenes cut from the final version of Skinwalkers. Most are brief and inconsequential. They can be viewed separately or collectively. It would have been nice if there were a commentary track to explain why scenes were cut, but the deleted scenes appear information-less.
This lack of commentary is perplexing since Dennis Berardi, one of the producers of Skinwalkers, talks over a brief feature called "Digital FX Comparisons" that show before and after digital effects sequences. Much lengthier is a "Huguenot Shootout Pre-visualization Sequence" feature that runs through important scenes from the film with corresponding storyboards, both drawn and digitally animated. Berardi provides commentary on an isolated animatic as well. Both features are casually interesting, though not essential viewing.
Finally, director Jim Isaac provides a feature-length commentary. His observations are laid-back, but he talks throughout without any notable pauses.
Director Jim Isaac was responsible for the sci-fi / slasher mash-up Jason X. Here, he helms a western / werewolf mash-up. Like Jason X, Skinwalkers isn't particularly good, but it does have a midnight movie ambience that works on a certain level, if you're into that genre of film. I'd say rent it, if you're interested, but avoid otherwise.