Does “Skinwalker Ranch” mean anything to anyone? The movie of the same name claims to be inspired by true events. Apparently the cattle ranch in question is home to a wide range of unexplained phenomena, including the disappearance of an eight year-old boy, something that received media attention in 2010.
That is music to the ears of filmmakers looking to produce another found footage film. Alas, Skinwalker Ranch doesn’t do much to distinguish itself from the crowd.
The obligatory setup introduces us to the team that has traveled to the ranch to document the alleged disturbances happening there. It includes a field scientist, investigative journalist, veterinary technician, security specialist, driver/assistant, and a cameraman. In addition to examining the disturbances, they are going to try and find out what happened to the son of the ranch’s owner.
The security guy has placed cameras inside and outside of the house, covering the pasture, barn, corral, and pretty much every other square inch of the place. They are infrared to allow for filming at night, and he’s also set up motion sensors as a bonus.
There are strange occurrences the first night. Everyone is awoken by an unbearable screeching sound, and then a few dozen bats hit the roof and die on contact. A dead dog is found with precise incision marks and no blood. Insanely bright blue lights are seen at night around the property.
Sadly, none of it is very compelling, and it feels awfully stale for the most part. The team bickers about whether or not the weirdness could be paranormal activity. An old Native American man straight out of a slasher movie tells the team they are doomed. People keep the camera rolling despite literally running for their lives. Almost no cliché is left untouched.
Working in its favor is the 70 minute (sans credits) running time. It’s certainly never boring and it moves at a nearly breakneck pace. It also looks very polished and is well-made; the mix of on-camera interviews, security footage, and footage shot by the camera man is effectively blended and has a nice flow to it. Finally, the visual effects are solid despite what had to be a small budget.
Ultimately, though, it doesn’t add up to much. We’ve seen virtually everything in this movie before, probably more than once. Asserting that it’s based on real events does nothing to alter the familiarity. There’s a lot of action and chaos in the last few minutes, but it lacks significance. Aliens, the government, whatever is responsible, you’re unlikely to care.