I’m slowly transitioning the movie reviews and notes I’ve already written on LJ over here. Since I’d like to do this in chronological order, more or less, I’m going back to my January archive, back when it all began . . . with Skinwalkers.
It’s not a great movie. But damn, did it have potential.
*Warning for spoilers*
Here’s the basic plot of Skinwalkers: there are good werewolves and bad werewolves. The good werewolves want to be human again. The bad werewolves want to keep eating people and participating in naughty, naughty sex. However, there’s a prophecy written by . . . somebody . . . that a special boy will be able to cure the werewolf curse on his 13th birthday. The bad werewolves want to kill him so they can keep to their evil ways. They good werewolves try to keep him alive. Guess which one happens? You’re probably right.
Skinwalkers might sound corny, and parts of it are, but there are some surprisingly original elements to this one that I really enjoyed. Whoever came up with the idea of giving the werewolves guns? Freaking genius. There are some awesome shoot-out scenes in this film. The movie doesn’t really begin until Granny pulls out her AK-47 and faces off with Jason Behr in the middle of the street. (Okay, it’s probably not an AK-47. I don’t know guns. I don’t care.) The point is, the whole wild west undertone to the film? It really, really works. I wish they had developed it further throughout the entire movie.
Unfortunately, the problem with Skinwalkers is that it has all this creative potential that’s mostly unrealized or just smothered by bad acting. Take Rhona Mitra, for instance, who plays Tim The Wonder Boy’s mother Rachel. She’s supposed to start the film as this weak, needy sort of woman who ends up becoming a total kickass heroine . . . essentially, she needs to transform from Sarah Connor in The Terminator to Sarah Connor in Judgment Day in two hours. But Mitra is not Linda Hamilton, and her character’s arc goes more like this: whine, whine, whine, whine, kill a couple of bad guys, and poof! She’s a badass. It . . . doesn’t work. Really. It just doesn’t.
Other bad acting choices include Jason Behr as the leader of the bad guys and Elias Koteas as the leader of the good guys. And that pains me to admit, because I had all the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toys as a kid, and I will love Casey Jones in my little geek heart till my dying days, but Koteas just isn’t strong enough to play Jonas, a hardass that more or less sacrifices his own daughter for The Ultimate Cause. You have to kind of hate Jonas for what he does but also manage to empathize with him and understand what he’s trying to do . . . which is, admittedly, a tricky thing to pull off. Koteas can’t quite pull it off. You mostly just hate him instead. The best thing you can really say about Jonas is that you care a little more about him than you do about the movie’s stock Native American character, Will. (Really, would it kill people to write Native American characters with personalities? I wouldn’t think it would be that hard to do.)
It’s Varek, the Bad Guy, who really kills me, though. It’s not all acting—though there is plenty wrong with that: Behr’s decision to portray evil by staring vacantly at everything around him just doesn’t pan out, no matter how long and greasy his hair is. But the writers kind of screw up here too. See, this movie’s got a Darth Vader-esque “twist”: Varek used to be a good guy and is, in fact, Tim the Wonder Boy’s previously assumed dead father. Not exactly shocking, but there’s still a certain amount of potential there because Varek is cured at the end of the movie, and that’s kind of intriguing. How do you live with yourself after having spent ten years murdering people? Varek tried to kill his own son. That’s pretty messed up. The less than happy family reunion, coupled with the fact that these people will always be on the run from the bad werewolves, could have been a really neat way to end the movie.
But someone decided to take the cheap way out, because Varek is, in the words of Mike Myers, “the diet coke of Evil.” Sure, he hangs with the bad werewolves, but he also won’t kill people unless he’s forced to. His lackeys do all the hardcore stuff. The worst thing Varek really does is screw his skank girlfriend. And it’s not like he has any good left inside of him. The film’s pretty clear that once you’ve tasted flesh, you’ve gone full scale darkside. There is no “I’m bad, but wait, I’m still a little, little bit good, please redeem me, oh please.”
Skinwalkers has potential; there is clearly a foundation built for what should be an interesting dynamic between multiple characters. But with the exception of Sarah Carter and Shawn Roberts, who share one of the best and most brutal scenes in the whole movie, that potential remains mostly undelivered, which is kind of sad, really. Bad CGI, I can live with. I kind of expected to hate the CGI werewolves (and I did.) But it’s really the flat acting that makes Skinwalkers a C+ movie, B- at best.