'Skinwalkers' DVD Review

Reviewed by Scott Weinberg

Stop me when this starts to sound silly (and/or boring): An extended family of ever-bickering werewolves do battle over the fate of one young boy who holds the future of their clan in his hands. That's pretty much the long and short of James Isaac's long-delayed Skinwalkers, a werewolf flick that's as broad and obvious as it is unintentionally amusing. Hardcore horror fans should at least wait for the DVD rental, which is when the gorier bits will be tossed back into the mix. Yes, that's right: Not only is this a seriously goofy werewolf movie -- but they snipped out most of the juicy bits in order to earn a PG-13 rating. Gotta love it. (DVD Note: Nope, you're still getting the PG-13 theatrical version.)

Second feature from the man who gave you the stupidly lovable Jason X, Skinwalkers is mostly just stupid, and could probably be described a whole bunch of ways. Since it's got werewolves in it, that's horror. But since most of the livelier bits deal with little besides shotguns, squibs and silly death scenes, the thing could also be described as an action flick. What with all the dreary back-story about family betrayals and hidden secrets, Skinwalkers is also sort of a low-end soap opera with aspirations of actual drama. (ha) But mainly it's an unintentional comedy. (I'm sorry, but "Nana's" death scene is pretty dang amusing -- and B-movie fans simply haven't lived until they've seen how quickly this flick's Main Street USA can turn into a massive shootout.)

Aside from the painfully generic story-line of "good werewolves hit the road in an effort to protect a holy child while evil vampires give pursuit," the flick has very little to offer. During the endless road trip we get a whole lot of clumsily-delivered exposition, a small smattering of lightweight character development, and a series of generally overwrought and unconvincing action scenes. At every rest stop, we lose another fringe character or two: This time it's the black "good guy" werewolf; next stop we'll get to the evil hippie werewolf. Skinwalkers is more a series of stand-alone set pieces than it is an actual story -- and that's pretty irritating. But mostly it's a lot of blather about "prophecy of the red moon" this and "but he's just a little boy!" that. Insert drooping eyelids wherever you see fit. To be fair, Stan Winston's creature creations are pretty decent, but they're not nearly enough of an asset to salvage this wreck.

Cast-wise, we're dealing with a fairly vanilla-flavored collection. The lovely Rhona Mitra seems lost among all the fangs and bullets, Jason Behr makes for a snarlingly amusing "Varek" (the villain, obviously), and the always-cool Kim Coates gets to wear a silly wig and sprout claws. Longtime character actor Elias Koteas comes the closest to giving a memorable role -- although it may only be due to the fact that he has the most lines. Hottie fans should take note: In addition to Ms. Mitra, we're also treated to a little skin (no nudity) from the likes of Sarah Carter and Natassia Malthe. So while the movie's not really good, at least you'll have something pleasant to focus your eyeballs upon.

And if you're among those who believe that werewolf movies should be ... scary? Skip this one entirely and just stick with the classics.

As mentioned earlier, I certainly expected Lionsgate to release this turkey in a full-bore "unrated and ultra-nasty!" edition, but nope. This time around it's just the theatrical cut -- but if you're a big fan of the movie, you can probably expect a double-dip some time in the future. The flick is presented in a very fine anamorphic widescreen transfer, with audio delivered in a strong 5.1 (or 6.1 DTS) mix. So that's good. And hey, at least someone went out and snagged some extra features: Director Jim Isaac contributes a dry-but-fairly informative commentary track in which it becomes fairly clear that there were too many cooks in the director's kitchen. Also included is a basic 9-minute "behind the scenes" featurette, as well as some pre-visualization footage (on the big shootout), a few deleted scenes, and a brief look at some FX work.

So if you're a werewolf freak or a fan of plainly bad filmmaking, I'd say give it a rent. If you qualify as both, the flick might be worth a purchase once it hits the $5.50 bin.