Review: Skinwalkers (2007)

It's been awhile since I've seen a modern-day take on the werewolf genre...and what I'd seen prior to Skinwalkers really hadn't left a good taste in my mouth afterward.  Sure, the Ginger Snaps series was fun, as was Wes Craven's CursedBut something about them just wasn't quite right.  And that's not to say that Skinwalkers is all that and a bag of chips...but it is a pretty darn good werewolf yarn.
In fact, at first you're not sure that you're not seeing a variation on the classic vampires v. werewolves theme (played to death in the Underwold films), until the reveal that this is werewolf v. werewolf, as their very existence is on the brink of extinction.  It's a rather unique approach, I think - the basic plot revolves around a group of reluctant werewolves who are protecting a child that is prophesied to bring an end to their curse.  However, hot on their tail are a group of ass-kicking, flesh-devouring werewolves who happen to like their situation and want to stop the prophecy so they can continue their blood-drenched ways.
Stuck in the middle of all of this is the child himself, and his mother, who know nothing about the curse until one day the aforementioned blood-crazed nutcases show up in their hometown.  Of course, they also don't know that the entire town is full of "friendly" werewolves, and this sets up a G.I. Joe-style shootout in the middle of the small town's main drag, where bullets fly freely but nobody seems to be able to hit the broadside of a barn, much less the old lady standing in the middle of the road.  It's a great shoot-out scene, but stretches the boundaries of disbelief a little too far.
Of course, once their hidey-hole is uncovered, the boy and his mother are taken on the road by the pack of "good" werewolves, who have hidden their curse and never tasted blood (apparently once you've gone there, you never go back).  Several more run-ins occur along the way, one in a hospital, one in an abandoned factory, and a few surprises are unveiled that even I as a long-time horror fan didn't really see coming.
The acting is good, though for some reason I couldn't get the idea that Elias Koteas was doing his best Christopher Meloni (Law & Order: SVU) impression for some reason.  Rhona Mitra plays the mother to a T, vascillating between wanting what is best for her son (his safety) and entrusting him to beasts who want nothing more than to devour the both of them.  The transformation sequences are passable (nobody will ever beat American Werewolf in London, in my opinion), and the visual FX are pretty darn good.
If you're a fan of the genre, this is a refreshing take that puts a nice spin on some of the classic conceits of the mythology, and overall is more satisfying than many of the other werewolf films made in the past...oh, 20 years or so.