Written by Steve Berg, Ken Bretschneider, Devin McGinn, Murphy Michaels and Adam Ohler. Directed by Devin McGinn and Steve Berg. Stars Britani Bateman, Taylor Bateman and Steve Berg.
After a ranch owner sees his son disappear, a private investigation company sets camp and tries to find out what has happened.
I had so much hope for this movie. I don’t know why I keep subjecting myself to found footage movies but this time I assumed it would be different; aliens instead of ghosts. Refreshing, right? If it had been well made, sure. But again, we’re witness to the glaring errors of the found footage genre and yet again, we’re subject to style over substance.
Granted, a big private investigation company would have top notch cameras, so you can almost forgive the fact that all of their handycams and security cameras are of professional quality. Almost. It still doesn’t fit the genre and it still doesn’t excuse how everyone seems to have mics on them, no matter how far from the camera they might be. I know, I’m nitpicking but damnit, it breaks realism.
However, that’s not the main problem with Skinwalker Ranch. The problem lies in the fact that if you actually recap the story plot, none of it makes sense. We’re to believe that everything we see (SPOILER HERE) are from the same entity. This means that the werewolves, the invisible dog-killer, the kid with telekinetic/telepathic powers and the ghost of Cody are all the same alien, who shape-shifts. Hence the title, Skinwalker Ranch (it walks the skins of others). Fine. The question one has to ask oneself, however, is why?
Why go through all that trouble? It’s never explained why aliens visit that particular ranch (for thousands of years, if the cave paintings are to be believed). Why is that one alien (I’ll name him Bob) going through all the trouble of kidnapping people, disguising himself as them to haunt survivors, turning into werewolves for shits and giggles and then just barge in one day and attack everyone he finds? The simple answer is that there is no reason; the writers wanted to have a movie without an answer. And while this works for stuff like the golden light emanating from the suitcase in Pulp Fiction, it doesn’t work when the whole point of the movie is to show you why things happen. I assume the writers believed people would come out of the theater wondering what could be really happening. Instead, people come out feeling insulted. I know I was. You can’t just throw a bunch of shit at the screen and then not explain any of it.
See, with ghost found footage, the back story is ingrained in our collective knowledge of folklore and superstition: ghosts are here because they have unfinished business, or they’re malevolent spirits bent on winning points for Satan. You understand that people are in danger because they have the soul stuff that the lord of darkness craves. Or they’re interfering with the ghost’s business. Here? We don’t know, because we don’t know why aliens are here in the first place. I went ahead and assumed that these aliens have their variation of Halloween that lasts 4000 years and this is their version of putting burning bags of dog shit on someone’s porch. Yes, Bob is an immature teenage alien pranking humans. That’s the only way this movie made sense to me.
Which is a shame, because the tension isn’t bad and the effects are pretty clever. Sure, the glitching camera trick for annoying after a while but scenes — like the MDE van showing up every night, and then having what seems to be a car’s lights pull up, separate and fly over the pasture — were pretty clever. I liked those scenes. Sadly, you can have all the pretty scenes you want but if the plot sucks, the movie bombs.