Skinwalker Ranch (R)

Horror 86 October 30, 2013
By Calum Marsh
Among the more salient facts revealed to us by the Paranormal Activity franchise was the news that demons have a lot of free time on their hands. It came as a surprise to learn that, while we are settling in for a good night's sleep, all manner of maleficent spirits are messing about for their own mild amusement, prodding creaky doors and clanging around downstairs in an irritating campaign to startle us. Well, as Devin McGinn's new film Skinwalker Ranch tells it, aliens are no less inclined than demons to devote themselves to prankish antics. They ought to call it Skylarking Ranch, for all the space-borne shenanigans afoot: The site has been historically beleaguered by an array of unexplained phenomena -- much of it spooky, all of it quite trivial. The lot of it is captured by a motley crew of portly, thick-bearded twentysomethings with a handful of digital cameras, apparently the hippest division of an agency known as Modern Defense Enterprises. The team's investigation, such as it is -- a lot of milling around waiting for the scary bits to pop up, an experience not unlike watching the film -- is presented to us in the form of found footage, that most tiresome of zeitgeisty subgenres. But here form follows function: Fixed cameras lend themselves well to dimly lit effects and shrewd obfuscation, and McGinn proves a fine hand at stock-horror misdirection. The aliens, meanwhile, are rather unimaginative; whether sprinting by the camera spectrally or blinding us with a garish burst of light, you have to wonder whether they have anything better to do. But then, don't we all?
Devin McGinn Jon Gries, Kyle Davis, Erin Cahill, Devin McGinn, Matthew Rocheleau, Steve Berg Adam Ohler Deep Studios LLC.


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