Review: Skinwalkers / Cert: 15 / Director: Devin McGinn / Screenplay: Adam Ohler / Starring: Taylor Bateman, Steve Berg, Michael Black, Erin Cahill, Carol Call / Release Date: Out Now
Paranormal Activity with aliens. Is that enough? . The DVD cover boasts “based on true events” but one can only hope that the 'true events’ were a damn sight more interesting and exciting than this lame found footage runaround which barely has enough meat on its bones to stagger over its pitiful sixty-odd minute running time. Seriously, the found footage thing is on its knees now; we’re all heartily sick and tired of watching ramshackle documentary makers journeying out into Hicksville to investigate some unexplained local legend before eventually being picked off one by one by something we never see properly as some clown of a cameraman insists on recording everything despite being chased by monsters/vampires/Big Foot (delete as applicable).
Skinwalkers, to give it what due we can, does at least shake the basic format up a bit by throwing alien abduction into a confused and confusing mix which also offers up the more typical ghosts, possession and monsters so fundamental to the ’found footage’ subgenre. Following the sudden disappearance (in a flash of light) of the eight-year-old son of ranch worker Hoyt Miller, a crack troop of investigators from MDE (Modern Defence Enterprises) set off to the Skinwalker Ranch with their cameras and CCTV equipment to investigate not only the boy’s disappearance but other unexplained phenomena in the area. In best PA style the ranch is decked out with night-cameras and before long the weird stuff is happening and everyone’s running around shouting ‘Oh my God’ as the camera image conveniently breaks up just before anything interesting or scary appears on screen.
Although Skinwalkers uses actual reported events (we’ll refrain from calling them ‘true events’, if you don’t mind) as its basis (the real-world Skinwalker ranch, in Utah, became the focus of much agitation amongst the paranormal community in 2010), it’s entirely unable to do anything particularly inventive with them. There’s a desperate air of cheesy unbelievably in the on-camera interviews with locals, the MDE bunch are utterly unmemorable and the constantly interrupted camera recordings just leave the viewer frustrated. Relying far too much on tropes popularised by the likes of Paranormal Activity and Blair Witch, no amount of blazing lights, screeching and vaguely extraterrestrial-looking creatures prowling around in the shadows can help distinguish Skinwalkers from an endless tiresome tide of found footage movies. The genre has just become a cheap and cynical gimmick rather than the interesting storytelling experiment it might once have been a very long time ago and Skinwalkers is just the latest in what’s now a thoroughly-inessential and exhausted fad.