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110 min.
Release Date

During Skinwalkers, I imagined myself in space, on the Satellite of Love. Had I been sent to this theater by mad scientist Dr. Clayton Forrester and his chubby sidekick Dr. Laurence Erhardt from the Gizmonic Institute? Was I being forced to watch this bad movie, sitting alongside Crow T. Robot, Tom Servo, Gypsy, and of course Joel Hodgson in the peanut gallery? In my dream, I made fun of this terrible, terrible movie out loud and the audience echoed deafening laughter. Sadly this was only a dream, as I didn’t want to disturb other movie patrons from enjoying their theater experience—even though it’s impossible for anyone to enjoy Skinwalkers. Every once in a while a movie hits theaters that’s perfectly suited for Mystery Science Theater 3000. The only way to enjoy the experience is by mocking the film and all involved. If you’re going to see it, see it in the afternoon when the theater is dead. Take a few friends, robot or otherwise, and make witty comments amongst yourselves until this unendingly long bad movie ends.

The story begins by relating an age-old war between two bands of werewolf-like creatures: one group wants to be werewolves, the other does not. Described by an old “Indian” legend, the story goes that on a red full moon a boy of 13 will develop the ability to heal those suffering the curse of lycanthropy. Enter Rachel (Rhona Mitra), the clueless mother of Tim (Matthew Knight), whose 13th birthday is coming up. Her husband mysteriously died in what’s often referred to as an “attack”, though it’s never explained more than that. Her brother-in-law, Jonas (Elias Koteas) and a small group of weirdoes have lived in a small town for the duration of Tim’s life, never allowed to leave and bound by their werewolf code. And yet when Rachel is told her son will become a werewolf soon, like the rest of them, she’s baffled. Didn’t she question why she was never allowed to leave? Didn’t she ask why everyone’s restrained by leather straps at night when there’s a full moon? Meanwhile, the enemy gang of evil werewolves enjoys their bloodthirsty killing side. They plan to destroy Tim before the red moon rises. Made up of biker dudes and one biker chick, scantily clad and armed to the teeth, these would-be badasses are just plain silly. Covered in tattoos and garbed in leather, they ride motorcycles and all have serious expressions.

When the bad werewolves discover where the good werewolves are hiding out, watch out! Director James Isaac wishes he was directing Underworld, another movie where rival monster gangs find their entire existence hinges on one person. Isaac even makes his werewolf gangs engage in not-so-elaborate gunfights, again comparable to Underworld’s, except low budget. The most laugh-inducing scene involves a gun-totting standoff between the evil werewolf leader Varek (Jason Behr) and an old lady named Nana. The old lady walks with Tim down the street of their abandoned town. Suddenly she spots Varek. Nana tells Tim to run along, meanwhile pulling a gigantic pistol from her purse. She and Varek throw down, and then an all-out werewolf bulletfest ensues.

When the werewolves eventually change into their animal form, they look like rejects from the Marlon Brando version of The Island of Dr. Moreau, or characters from Blockbuster’s endless supply of direct-to-video releases. The worst of it is, Skinwalkers takes itself very seriously, without even an inkling as to how dreadful its Grade-F production really is. We can barely enjoy this movie as camp, as it’s rated PG-13 and doesn’t even have the benefits of blood and guts to take our minds off the poor writing.

Why is it we can’t get a decent werewolf movie? The last one was An American Werewolf in London made back in 1981. Prior to that, only Universal’s 1941 The Wolf Man holds merit. Werewolves rarely get the character development divvied out to vampires; there’s rarely a tragic or sympathetic werewolf, as they’re savagery and animal-like appearance is so terribly inhuman. Making them fashion victims or biker skanks doesn’t help much either. Mike Nelson, the second host to man the bridge of MST3K summed up Skinwalkers when referencing another bad horror movie, the title of which I forget. He said something like “The director boldly mixes tedium with un-scariness.” How true. If only I could have announced that aloud during my screening!

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