MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Skinwalker Ranch’

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Film: Skinwalker Ranch
Starring: Adam Ohler
Directed By: Devin McGinn

There is no denying the permanence of ‘found footage’ in the world of film at this point. From humble beginnings with college kids lost in the woods, the genre has undergone some major changes over the years, and along the way a variety of new angles have been brought to the table. It started with ghosts and things that go bump in the night, then evolved to exorcisms, bigfoot, dinosaurs, school shootings, superpowers, and of course – aliens. This week another entry attempts to scale the seemingly impossible mountain of originality so many genre films have failed to conquer, and sadly it too falls short of found footage glory.

Anyone who has spent more than five minutes thinking about aliens since the birth of the internet has likely stumbled across stories of Sherman Ranch, otherwise known as Skinwalker Ranch. It is allegedly the site of paranormal and UFO-related activities, many involving a single family who encountered a number of strange happenings after moving to the property years ago. None of this can be proven, of course, nor does almost any of it have anything to do with the film featured in this review. The name Skinwalker Ranch has some clout, or at least the producers of this film think so, and now we have a found footage film about aliens on a relatively isolated ranch with a hugely infamous name slapped on for clicks. Well played, Hollywood. You got me this time.

Skinwalker Ranch opens with an alien abduction in the middle of an otherwise perfect day. This is not a spoiler as it served as part of the film’s promotional material, but it’s also not exactly an honest portrait of what is to follow. After a number of opening credits the story picks up some time after the events in the original clip. A film crew of twenty-somethings has arrived at the ranch under the guise of hoping to help the grief-stricken father unsure of what has happened to his son, but in reality (at least one of them) is out to prove aliens exist for far more selfish reasons. Introductions are made, cameras are put in place, and by the twenty minute mark the film has reached the same point most films of this variety hit around now: ‘Night one.’

Over the course of several days life on the ranch becomes increasingly unhinged. Loud noises are heard with seemingly no source or cause in the middle of the night, strange lights come and go from all corners of the property, a strange ghost boy runs in and out of sequences and, last but not least, a giant wolf/dog creature roams the grounds (and caves below) sporadically. It’s all quite odd and for the most part surprisingly well executed, but when the boiler plate ending slaps you in the face with mediocrity it’s hard to remember how any of it was connected. You were amused, sure, but did it make sense? Was it supposed to?

Outside of some decent CGI and an admittedly decent grab bag of ‘creepy’ elements to litter the film’s quietest moments, Skinwalker Ranch does not have much to offer. The characters are 2-dimensional, the plot is paper-thin, and when the final frames play you feel robbed for having tried to care about the characters’ plight in the first place. Aliens and found footage should go hand-in-hand, but it takes more than a bunch of decent ideas to make a movie that is anywhere near enjoyable. This is a missed opportunity at best, and while that’s still better than the vast majority of indie found footage efforts I cannot say it’s worth your money.

Score: C-

Review written by: James Shotwell (Follow him on Twitter)

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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  • amol

    this is a bad movie.