Skinwalkers (2006)

Director: James Isaac
Writer: James DeMonaco, Todd Harthan, James Roday Rodriguez
Cast: Jason Behr, Elias Koteas, Rhona Mitra, Natassia Malthe, Kim Coates, Sarah Carter, Tom Jackson, Matthew Knight, Barbara Gordon, Shawn Roberts, Lyriq Bent
Seen on: 20.12.2020

Content Note: cultural appropriation, racism

Some werewolves see their condition as a curse, but some werewolves revel in the chaos and the blood that surrounds them every month. Prophecies have predicted that a boy will be the answer – he will cure werewolves. If he lives past his 13th birthday that is. While some werwolves have sworn to protect the boy, others mean to kill him before he can cure them. The boy in question is Timothy (Matthew Knight) who doesn’t even know that werewolves exist. Neither does his mother Rachel (Rhona Mitra). But when Varek (Jason Behr) come for them, they have to learn quickly. Fortunately Timothy’s uncle Jonas (Elias Koteas) and the rest of the family are werwolves themselves and know how to protect him. Nevertheless, it is not an easy job.

Skinwalkers is the kind of film you find in the bargain bin and you know it’s there for a reason, but still, it’s a werewolf film, so you go for it and then the film does exactly nothing to surpass your expectations. To say that is disappointing is a lie, but it would have been nice if it had been one of the forgotten/hidden treasures. It is not.

The film poster showing a woman's mouth filled with sharp teeth, her face is splattered with blood.

Skinwalkers builds on Navajo legends, but it cast exactly one Native American (Wesley French – though he isn’t Navajo) in the role of “Native American Man” – a character who is killed straight away (in service to the white boy savior). It is problematic, to say the best. And it isn’t made better by the fact that the only Black person in the film (Lyriq Bent) also is nothing more than cannon fodder for the white quest.

[SPOILERS in the next paragraph.]

So that’s a mess already and then the film does literally nothing to redeem itself. Quite to the contrary, it is revealed that Varek is actually Timothy’s father but when werewolves taste even one drop of blood while transformed, they go completely bad forever and that’s what happened to Varek – formerly known as Caleb. He tortures his niece Katherine (Sarah Carter). He kills his brother Jonas. He almost kills his ex, Rachel, and he almost kills Timothy. But when he gets a taste of Timothy’s blood, he is suddenly healed and goes back to normal and the three of them go back to being a happy nuclear family as if the bad shit he did never happened. You know, he wasn’t responsible, he couldn’t help himself, it was the blood that made him bad. This just feeds into an extremely problematic narrative about abusers.

Three werewolves dressed in jeans and leather.

Apart from those two things, the film is mostly rather cringey. Sometimes it even tries pretty hard, but it basically stumbles from trope to trope and never manages to hit the right emotional tone to make any of it work. But for me, I think it was the “bad biker werewolves” clad in leather and being all sexy and bad and shit that felt like it came straight from the 90s that really sealed the film’s fate. It just isn’t good, no matter how I look at it.

Rachel (Rhona Mitra) cowering in a cage with her son Timothy (Matthew Knight).

Summarizing: Just leave it in the bargain bin and go.

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