Directed by Devin McGinn
Written by Adam Ohler
Starring: Taylor Bateman, Steve Berg, Michael Black, Devin McGinn, and Jon Gries
There is a place the unexplained calls home.
A scientific research team investigates and documents the supernatural phenomena surrounding the disappearance of a cattle ranchers 10-year-old son. Inspired by true events that shocked the paranormal community around the world.
I love found footage films if they have a legitimate reason to present the medium within the confines of a horror film. I’m happy to say I loved everything about Skinwalker Ranch.The choppy, static-laced found footage served it well. This film takes liberties from some very real phenomena that occurred at the mysterious Utah ranch in 2011. Also known as Sherman Ranch, this 500 acre farm is the home of reported UFO activity and serves as the scene of an American Indian legend that’s been drawing people in for over 50 years. The ranch has been the subject of books and investigations; a perfect horror/science fiction set up in my opinion.
Jon Gries (Napoleon Dynamite) plays the grieving father, Hoyt Miller, a man who lost his son in what seems like a clear UFO abduction. Gries is raw and intesne in his role as the hurt and hyper-sensitive parent that never stopped searching for his son. Frustrated, he turns to a group of researchers to investigate the ranch and the claim. The team .jumps at the opportunity to film a documentary and aid in finding his lost son. They initially doubt his story and motivation, but the paranormal/Alien activity quickly dispels all doubt. The team finds animal mutilations and Native American Indian lore about “dark soil”. The unfolding back story puts the team on edge and they stay there for the duration of the film.
The film is presented through several static cameras at fixed locations at Miller’s expansive ranch. Sometimes the activity is captured on camera, and other times it forces the darkest points of your demented imagination to draw a conclusion. Like H.P. Lovecraft stated, sometimes the scariest thing possible is the fear of the unknown. The things that lurk in the dark are as terrifying as you give them permission to be. The zeitgeist of found footage is a slippery slope and akin to failure in many horror films. Skinwalker Ranch is a success for many reasons, but the biggest might be director, Devin McGinn’s approach to the lurking horror. As the mythology widens, so does the perplexing occurrences, and some are A List scares. Nothing is watered down in this tale of the supernatural meets human loss.
Skinwalker Ranch is an engrossing film and managed to give me goosebumps a time or two. The film takes itself seriously and that’s another vote of confidence in its success. Ultimately, this film was a welcome change of pace to the morbidly obese genre it falls within. I love when horror isn’t dumbed down. Nothing will kill a film as quickly as the director and writer over-explaining the key points like we’re third graders. You’re left to draw your own conclusions and that might be more frightening than anything the director spelled out for the viewer,
Skinwalker Ranch is a refreshing take on a stale genre. The horror/sci-fi elements are skillfully presented and drew me into a deeper place than most films of a similar nature. The sad sense of loss intertwines with the unexplained, helping create a dark and mysterious atmosphere that feels unique to the film. This will make for a killer Blu Ray addition to my collection. Check out Skinwalker Ranch.*
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