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
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.