Close Encounters of the Found Footage Kind…

Actor turned first-time director, Devin McGinn (The Last Lovecraft: Relic of Cthulhu), has chosen an unlikely subject, a found footage gig, to try his hand at direction with, but his efforts have paid off. Skinwalker Ranch sees a young boy snatched from thin air in front of his parents, which is all caught on camera. The mother ends up in hospital and the father calls in a group of paranormal specialists known as MD. They set up cameras throughout the house and eventually their wait pays off. They first hear a loud noise that causes a colony of bats to splat off the side of the house, then the group witness an apparition of the missing boy running through the kitchen. Strange lights, a giant hound and more unexplainable things happen to the group and builds up to a decent finish.

Skinwalker Ranch
Directed by
Devin McGinn
Taylor Bateman, Steve Berg, Michael Black
Release Date
30 October 2013
Ed’s Grade: C+

I’ve seen a ton of found footage movies this year and have to admit to not expecting anything worth bothering over in Skinwalker Ranch, but was glad to be wrong. It wasn’t outstanding or anything but it was certainly entertaining, as it first introduced us to the players who were actually all interesting, and then we are taken on the obligatory tour of the house as each camera is set up and displayed on monitors. Even though I’ve seen it all done exactly like this before, I guess it musta had something over the lesser candidates because I enjoyed watching it being done.

McGinn’s pacing was key to the successfulness of Skinwalker Ranch, and on that score it delivered well, as it was built up over the correct amount of time keeping me watching and the screen always busy enough. I think when an actor takes the helm, particularly an actor who can perform, helps get better out of the cast as they have a certain empathy and understanding that’s not always gained from other first-time directors. As well as decent performances, the story was also interesting, especially since I enjoy the sci-fi/horror genre, but anyone into just plain ol horror should get a kick out of this film too.

The fact that it’s low-budget is clear, but I was impressed with McGinn’s handling of the special effects, as he looks to have been paying close attention to what others do wrong. I didn’t mind that we never get a perfect image of the hound or the aliens, and I’m convinced he’s chosen wisely. We see more than enough to satisfy, yet not too much to spoil the overall effectiveness of his solid attempts. In actual fact, the hound was done remarkably well with all things considered, and managed to remain realistic. As far as its found footage genre status goes, it works pretty well and is ultimately entertaining, which is all anyone can ask of a low-budget film, and if Skinwalker Ranch is anything, entertaining is one of them.

Review by Ed Blackadder, Lead Entertainment Writer

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