Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Movie #8: Skinwalkers (2007)

How's this for a kick-ass opening?

A young boy is walking down the street with his dear old grandmother, on their way to pick up his mother at the local hardware store. They pause at the corner, and the grandmother looks up, alarm on her face. An eagle screams, passing just overhead and soaring across the street to a rugged, scruffy motorcycle type, who flexes his muscles and levels a murderous stare at the pair.

"We only want the boy," he says. The sweet grandmother reaches into her purse to pull out the largest pistol I have ever seen a grandmother carry. "Run, Matthew!" she cries as she starts firing. Another biker type appears and starts blasting. The mailman sees what's going on and cries out, grabbing a sawed-off shotgun from his mailbag as the bullets start flying everywhere.

SKINWALKERS doesn't start like that; you have to wade through an almost unwatchable 20 minutes before you get to this scene. But it should start like that - thrust us directly into the action to learn what's going on along with Matthew and his mother as their eyes are opened to a world of Skinwalkers: shape-changing werewolves at war with each other. The evil baddies, led by Caleb (Jason Behr looking, as others have noted, like the lead singer from a late 90s rock band), wish to kill Matthew because it is prophesied he is the one who will bring about their destruction by ending the curse that gives them their power at the change of the moon. On the side of right is Jonas (the always creepy but watchable Elias Koteas) and his extended family, who want Matthew to end the curse and give their kind the freedom of a normal life.

The problem with the first 20 minutes of the film is all of this is explained in the most banal way imaginable, using trite, bland storytelling like scrolling prologues and pages of useless exposition. Useless, because once the action starts we're put in the place of Matthew's mother (played by rising action hottie Rhona Mitra of DOOMSDAY) who has to quickly understand everything that's happening to her and her son anyway, which is an infinitely better way of moving the story along. Director James Issac revels in the B-movie feel of SKINWALKERS, and loads the film with tense moments and a bevy of twists and turns to keep the story from falling flat.

The werewolves fall more into the "Wolf-man" Universal Monsters look than THE HOWLING or the more recent DOG SOLDIERS, and credit fore that should be given to legendary FX man Stan Winston and his team, who had a hand in the production. They look descent for the budget, and Issac does a lot of lighting and film speed tricks to hide some of it. But SKINWALKERS, despite its supernatural leanings, is a solid B-movie action flick.

Just do yourself a favor and shut your TV off, fast-forward 20 minutes, turn back on and enjoy.

No comments:

Post a Comment