Director – Jim Isaac, Screenplay – James DeMonaco, Todd Harthan & James Roday, Producers – Dennis Berardi & Don Carmody, Photography – David A. Armstrong & Adam Kane, Music – Andrew Lockington, Visual Effects Supervisor – Dennis Berardi, Visual Effects – Mr. X Inc. (Supervisors – Mark Stepanek & Wojciech Zielinski), Special Effects – Acme FX (Supervisor – John McGillivray), Creature Effects – The Stan Winston Studio, Inc. (Supervisors – Shane Mahan & John Rosengrant), Production Design – David Hackl. Production Company – Lionsgate/Constantin Film/Stan Winston Productions/Skinwalkers DCP Inc./Red Moon Films Inc.
Jason Behr (Varek), Elias Koteas (Jonas), Rhona Mitra (Rachel), Matthew Knight (Timothy), Sarah Carter (Katherine), Natassia Malthe (Sonja), Kim Coates (Zo), Shawn Roberts (Adam), Tom Jackson (Will), Barbara Gordon (Nana), Rogue Johnston (Grenier), Lyriq Bent (Doak), Wendy Crewson (Female Leader)
A group of werewolf bikers hunt a young boy. There is a prophecy that the boy has the power to destroy them all during the red moon, which now hangs in the sky. A clue in a videotape leads the group to the town of Huguenot. The boy in question is young Timothy who lives amongst a loving community with his mother Rachel. The werewolf bikers arrive and a massive shootout ensues between them and the townspeople. Jonas, the leader of the community, flees with Rachel, Timothy and several others. He reveals that they too are werewolves but have foresworn eating flesh. Their pursuers have not and the eating of flesh gives them an insatiable hunger that is akin to drug addiction. While Jonas and his peaceful group welcome the prophecy of the red moon, which will bring an end to their condition, the others seek to kill Timothy to prevent this.
Skinwalkers was stab at making a modestly big-budget werewolf film, the first major effort to do so in the 00s aside from Wes Craven’s majorly disappointing Cursed (2005). Skinwalkers was a co-production between a consortium of international companies, including the production company of makeup effects man Stan Winston. A fair budget was thrown at the film; it did receive a theatrical release, although not many people went to see it and it premiered on dvd in most territories. Skinwalkers was the third directorial outing from James or Jim Isaac, a former effects supervisor who was worked on a number of films for David Cronenberg. Isaac made his directorial debut with The Horror Show (1989) and then after a long gap went onto make Jason X (2001) and then followed Skinwalkers up with Pig Hunt (2008) before his death in 2012. Co-writer James DeMonaco later went on to direct/write The Purge (2013) and sequels.
I wanted to like Skinwalkers. It looks visually impressive, having been shot for the big screen but soon slides down into the ridiculous. Almost everything in the film becomes an absurd pose on Isaac’s part. The introduction and arrival of the werewolf pack comes in over-the-top posturing – cliche montage shots of them loading their guns, putting on their shades and then riding into town on their bikes four abreast. The shootout between werewolf bikers and townspeople becomes increasingly more absurd – with what up until then had seemed like ordinary townspeople popping up everywhere wielding Uzis, rifles with telescopic sights, even a granny whipping out a .357 Magnum. There is a laughable scene with the werewolf bikers sprouting fangs as they drive along the road that cannot help but remind of Werewolves on Wheels (1971), which at least played the idea tongue in cheek. The werewolf sex scenes seem embarrassingly tame – certainly, nothing that holds a patch to the memorable scene between Christopher Stone and Elizabeth Brooks in The Howling (1981). Equally, when it comes to the town, Isaac offers up a vision of rural Americana that is crafted in such a hyper-real way that it verges on sentimentalism.
Skinwalkers has been slickly made but is a series of borrowed poses from beginning to end. On a conceptual level, it is a rehash of ideas taken from modern vampire films like Vampires (1998), Underworld (2003) and sequels, Vampires: The Turning (2005) – of warring factions of vampires/werewolves, one of which has foresworn preying on humans; a predestined full moon/eclipse being a time when they can be remedied of their condition; and a prophecy (of exactly what and from where it is never said) to drive the drama along. The film gives us contrived situations – like a potentially interesting scene where the werewolves are trussed up in the back of the truck and the infected Sarah Carter swings back and forward between innocent and animal-like snarls as Elias Koteas and the others struggle to free themselves. It is not a scene that seems at all believable – one has trouble with the film’s notion that there are two types of werewolves, those that have foresworn eating flesh and those that relish it. The writers are here making an analogy between eating flesh and drug addiction, but one finds it hard to understand how something like ravenous hunger could be passed by a bite akin to an infection.
Skinwalkers assembles an interesting cast, including the always underrated Elias Koteas and the incredibly lovely Rhona Mitra, who alas suppresses her incredibly sexy natural British accent for a generic role as an American single mom. The Stan Winston Studio deliver some effective werewolves, which do the job passably but still do not surpass the dazzling transformations in The Howling and An American Werewolf in London (1981) made twenty-five years earlier.