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Reviewed by Kenn McCracken, ©

Format: Movie
By:   Ernest Dickerson (Director)
Genre:   Horror
Released:   October 24, 2001
Review Date:  
RevSF Rating:   4/10 (What Is This?)

I'm not entirely above watching bad movies. In fact, one of my all-time favorites is Hudson Hawk (put that in your pipe and smoke it). I can usually find something in every movie to enjoy, at least for a little while.

That ability came in handy during my early morning viewing of Bones, the latest horrible attempt at a horror / slasher flick. Actually, it's probably not accurate to say horrible; there are a few moments that, although completely predictable, are still reasonably effective in soliciting a jump or two, at the least. Unfortunately, it largely falls flat, thanks in no part to the rapid-fire shifts in focus during the last thirty minutes of the film.

The basic premise is one that you've seen before: person of dubious character gets killed wrongly, then comes back twenty years later to enact revenge and scare young adults along the way. In fact, there are so many nods to A Nightmare on Elm Street (both subtle and not-so) that there are times in the movie that it's hard not to wonder if it was intended as homage or rip-off. There's also a scene early on that is well reminiscent of House on Haunted Hill, immediately noted by one of the character's lines. Beyond the overall plot lacking in originality -- and I hope this doesn't surprise you too much -- there are not any good twists to speak of, while the plot holes and unnecessary moments are plenty. Of course, this is par for the horror movie course, so odds are good that, as long as you don't expect too much, you'll get what you came for.

The cast is -- well, interesting, to say the least. The main focus is, of course, on the teens, who have hopes of opening a new club in the poverty-stricken neighborhood where their father grew up. Each of the said teens is capable and believable; unfortunately, at the end of the movie, none is memorable, a fault of the writing. Even the adults (including Pam Grier, Snoop Doggy Dogg, and Michael T. Weiss in a role that The Pretender prepared him well for) come across as cookie cutter characters. Snoop Dogg, as the infamous Jimmy Bones (the twenty year dead kingpin of the neighbor and title character), almost comes off as menacing, at times, until you remember that, hey -- that's Snoop!

The main distraction that I faced was choosing sides in the film. Obviously the kids were the good guys, the ones to root for; unfortunately, every adult in the film (with exception of Grier) is -- well, less than protagonist material, as it were. There are times when it seems like Jimmy Bones, played by Snoop Dogg, is the one we should sympathize with, but when his character is finally seen outside of flashbacks, it's nearly impossible to feel anything for the guy.

The last thirty minutes, too, really make the film hard to fall into. The focus shifts from haunted house/suspense to slasher flick to almost slapstick comedy and then back again. It's as though the filmmakers saw that they were losing the audience, and determined to get them back at any cost, even the film's.

That said, the movie is not without its moments. The scares, though few and far between, do happen (there's even one of my top ten fears included). The story seems to provoke thought regarding the value of staying true to one's cultural roots, even in proximity; unfortunately, those thoughts get left behind quickly with the next body. The best part, though, is the camp value. Almost a quarter of the movie takes place in flashback, in 1979, and the pimped-out clothes and attitude (not to mention Snoop Dogg's characteristic cool) inject a small amount of life into the movie.

Too many horror movies are just a variation on the same old theme: bad guy dies, bad guy comes back to life, bad guy makes mess of group of cute young actors, bad guy gets dispatched through some sort of deus ex machina. It's easy to imagine that the intention of Bones was to riff on this a little, playing on cultural differences between suburban America and the 'hood; unfortunately, outside of the setting, there's nothing to distinguish this gorefest from a million others that litter videostore shelves.

Kenn McCracken is Comics Editor for RevolutionSF.

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