Skinwalkers (2002)

TV Movie  |   |  Crime, Drama, Mystery  |  24 November 2002 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.2/10 from 595 users  
Reviews: 26 user | 3 critic

The story revolves around the legend of the skin walkers or "S Dubs", a folk legend from Utah about the spirits of murdered Indians returning to seek revenge upon those who disrespect the land.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Harrison Lowe ...
Roman George
James Dalgam ...
Wilson Sam
Nicholas Bartolo ...
Tommy Nakai
Jon Proudstar ...
Davis Nakai
Drew Lacafa ...
Sheila Tousey ...
Capt. Butler
Marla Frumkin ...
German woman (as Marla Finn)
Dr. Stone
Ryan Polequaptewa ...
Lonnie Mack
Ruben Maze


Faced with the murder of three medicine men, Navajo police must find the culprit. That the murders appear to be the work of a Skinwalker, or bad medicine man, complicate and illuminate the detective's work. Written by

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Detective Leaphorn trusts hard facts. Officer Chee trusts ancient tradition. Their beliefs will be tested as they try to catch a mysterious killer.


Crime | Drama | Mystery



Official Sites:




Release Date:

24 November 2002 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Skinwalkers - kostajat haudan takaa  »

Filming Locations:

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The knife found in Chee's tire is held in place by grey putty, clearly seen and covering the tire tread. See more »


Emma Leaphorn: I can't tell you how right it feels to be here. Oh, come one. I mean, childhood in Phoenix or not. Joe, can't you... Can't you feel it?
Lt. Joe Leaphorn: Oh, God, I wish I did. I keep waiting for something, but... nothing.
Emma Leaphorn: Well, whatever happens from here on out, I'm not leaving.
See more »


Followed by Coyote Waits (2003) See more »

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User Reviews

Mildly disappointing
18 February 2004 | by See all my reviews

I'm a fan of Hillerman's mysteries, and had high hopes for Redford's film adaptations. I came away from Skinwalkers a bit disappointed. I should preface my comments by saying that I've read about two-thirds of the Navajo mysteries, and Skinwalkers is my least favorite, so in some sense my disappointment started with the choice of book to adapt. However, my main quibbles with the movie are independent of this issue.

The foremost problem is what I see as unfaithful characterizations of Leaphorn and Chee. In the books, Leaphorn's defining attribute is his preternatural intuition, which he backs up with methodical procedure--sort of an aging Navajo Adam Dalgleish. Chee's essence is that he's a good cop who has to overcome frequent waves of self-doubt. Both are men of few words, Leaphorn because his mind is always whirring, Chee because he's moody by nature. Perhaps most distinctly, the relationship between the two is extremely unequal: Chee is in awe of Leaphorn's reputation, and as such is perpetually worried about making a wrong move within Leaphorn's view. However, what the Skinwalker movie does is take a single dimension of the characters--the fact that Chee is an active participant in Navajo spirituality and Leaphorn is not--and make that their defining contrast. This distorts Leaphorn in particular almost beyond recognition: rather than the icy logician of the books, whose attitude toward Navajo spiritual tradition is at worst pragmatic, the movie renders him as sort of a reservation Dirty Harry (with a smaller gun), informed primarily by cynicism about human motives. Given this, there's nothing for Chee to be in awe of, and their collaboration is presented as an equal division of labor, with Chee providing the "Navajo insider" angle and Leaphorn the "hardheaded cop" grounding.

Beyond this, the plot of the movie diverged considerably from that of the book, for the worse in my opinion. Disparaging a movie for not being true to a book I didn't like all that much might sound like complaining about the small portions at a lousy restaurant, but the book did have some good moments, most of which got altered or left out. In particular, the book has an especially tense episode near the end when one of the principles is in grave danger, a scene that could have been adapted to great effect. Instead, the movie's denouement feels forced, as is not that exciting.

For fans of Hillerman's books, I strongly recommend seeing the film of The Dark Wind, which I think captures the feel of the books much better than does Skinwalkers. I have a harder time recommending The Dark Wind to those unfamiliar with the books, as it has a slow pace and will probably be hard to follow. I also liked the adapatation of Coyote Waits quite a bit, less than The Dark Wind, but much more than Skinwalkers.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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