Director: James Isaac
Starring: Rhona Mitra, Elias Koteas, Natassia Malthe, Sarah Carter, Jason Behr
Rhona Mitra definitely has an indefinable x-factor appeal, even though I suspect she's a cyborg. It's an appeal that goes somewhat further than 'check out that boob job', and into some other vaguely spiritual territory that's far more socially acceptable, and less easy to define.
Maybe it's the out-sized lower lip and the way she dangles it, lips parted, in semi-permanent readiness for, or trembling anticipation of, ... the next breath. Could this be the subliminal secret to her appeal?
In any case, the reason for this Mitronic preamble, is to explain how I came to be reviewing this particular effort, as she is perhaps the main reason anyone would be drawn to check it out. However as we shall see, she's not the only attraction of this movie.
Skinwalkers is a horror movie that operates within the werewolf genre, as evidenced by the excellent cover art (which unfortunately looks like nothing you will see in the movie itself). It didn't start out too promisingly, as the cinematography seemed rather mundane with a TV vibe about it. Although there's some pretty shots of the moon and sunsets and that kind of thing inserted in a sneaky attempt at adding visual interest. Things do get better though, and there are many creative scenes later in the piece.
While the storyline adequately anchors proceedings, it's not a little contrived, perhaps even silly - suffering from some fairly hefty believability issues. It also follows a fairly standard arc complete with the obligatory battle finale, itself followed by suitably emotive orchestral mood muzak just so we understand how to feel, when we're meant to feel it. This kind of score is a pet peeve of mine, given my distaste for overt and clumsy manipulation, making me wonder why they kept the satanic riffery for the closing credits, when it would've worked so much better within the movie itself.
Which brings me to my second peeve - the movie features a kid as a pivotal character, and I generally dislike movies featuring kids. What's worse, this kid is a real turd ... you know the kind. When he has to be REAL quiet so the baddies won't hear him as they walk past his hiding spot, he picks that moment to clumsily knock over some random object, resulting in a giveaway noise at exactly the wrong time. If there's one thing worse than kids in a movie, its dumb-ass kids in a movie. And if there's one thing worse than dumb-ass kids in a movie, its horribly cliche moments like this.
Although the idea of having two diametrically opposed groups of werewolves is good, and fairly realistic as all sentient beings are prone to political differences I guess, the idea that the kid is the key point of dispute is contrived to say the least. Although this particular plot detail manages to provide something of a twist to proceedings later on, it ultimately does not make sense in the cold hard light of day. But to make matters worse, Mitramatic is cast as the appointed MILF of said kid, which at once casts her in the least-sexy role of the lot.
However, all is redeemed in the end as the Rhonadendron evolves from stock-standard housewife into a bad-ass, shotgun-toting Mitratron. Now THAT is what we came to see!
But before we get to that, we meet the 'baddies'. We know they're bad because of the overt stereotyping employed ... unshaven, long hair, riding motorbikes - all the common cultural clues are there. They even have a black guy too, just in case your prejudice hadn't kicked in yet.
Luckily, its not long before the action starts - at around the 20 minute mark an extended gunfight kicks in. We learn that werewolves actually prefer to use guns (loaded with silver bullets of course), which is something a bit different I guess. Especially as it was constructed much like a modern-day western.
The bad-guys even ride into town on their choppers in typical cowboy style. I'll allow this to be a valid idea ... maybe even a good one ... but the gunfights went on way too long for my taste. Still, your mileage may vary if you're a gun-slinging kinda moviegoer.
The acting, I have to say, is very good though ... and is the film's saving grace. I guess Elias Koteas would be the only name actor here, although can we also count the Mitra? Depends where you draw the line. The fact its a Canadian production means the actors are not as familiar to me as their Hollywood counterparts, although that should not at all be taken as a reflection of their acting qualities, rather more related to lack of visibility and tabloid exposure.
Koteas is pretty good, he's a solid dude who can act. But in addition, the rest of the cast is made up of promising young-ish actors, and they're certainly a good-looking bunch. It wouldn't surprise me if the producers saved on production expenses by doubling the set as a Levi's advert.
But what really rocked in this movie was the amount of hot, ass-kicking babes in the cast - which is something I have a definite enthusiasm for. And this movie features not just one, but three. As an added bonus you get a bad-ass grandma to boot. All you 'girls with guns' genre enthusiasts take note.
Natassia Malthe (Bloodrayne II) unfortunately isn't given much to do, but manages to look exceptional while not doing it. Dressed in leather pants and denim jacket, over her faux-leather bikini-top over faux-flesh boobs, her trademark shades denoting she's one of the 'baddies'.
Even though she is given very few lines, her character cuts a stylish and sexy swathe through the film, whether riding a chopper, or striking a bad-ass pose with gun in hand. And who doesn't love psychotic knife-wielding gun-toting werewolf nurses ?
Sarah Carter might be just another hot blonde except she really is a terrific actress, and is very impressive here. She goes from the apple-pie girl next door to some kind of exorcist-inspired demon spawn werewolf, and also gets the opportunity to strut the action-woman vibe.
She pulls off all facets of the role with ease, and in fact almost steals the show.
Likewise the lesser supporting characters are uniformly good. The acting was certainly the thing I second-most liked about the film, after the Mitranator of course.
As with any Werewolf movie, the creature effects always require comment, and they are passable I guess. I mean, who's to say what a werewolf actually looks like anyway? The werewolves here resemble their human versions, which is laudably accurate, though perhaps less visually believable.
In summary, the film has too many flaws to be recommended, but does have some great performances from the cast, a few humorous moments, and some pretty good ideas thrown into the mix. Yes the plot is somewhat hokey, but if you can ignore this, the rest of what is on offer is enough to make it an OK watch. Especially with three hot gun-toting babes in full effect, and for fans of the inimitable Ms Mitra.