Review by David Mumpower
October 30, 2001
Snoop Doggy Dogg is cool. Snoop Doggy Dogg is the star of a new dark-comedy/horror film called Bones. Bones is, therefore, cool.
Such logic is without question faulty (how else do we explain all of the Elvis movies?), but in this case, it's true. Bones had easily the best audience reaction of any film I've seen in calendar 2001. The paltry attendance for the flick was completely overcome by the voracious appetite the audience members had to see Snoop's Jimmy Bones gain revenge upon those evildoers who wronged him over two decades ago. I was definitely one of them.
Those who are familiar with the genesis of this Web site realize that one of our first page listings was for this under-hyped Halloween production whose thunder was stolen by Dark Castle's 13 Ghosts. Still, there was already a positive bias for the film before I entered the theater which I must confess early in this review. I wanted to like this film and I may happily say that I did. Bones is a blast.
The movie starts in the present day, with a couple of events establishing the mood. First, a dog chases a man into his house in a seemingly random attempt to bite him that eventually makes a great deal more sense as we learn who the players involved are. Next, a drug deal is completed between some area kids and a couple of rich frat boys who make the mistake of entering the creepiest-looking house on the nearly deserted block. Before long, the dudes follow the standard horror rules that Wes Craven made famous a few years ago in Scream and meet a fate expected of drug users. Only pieces of them are left, and we come to see that the house is just as expected...haunted and very dangerous. Its lone inhabitant is a shape-shifting dog with an appetite that can't be satiated, and even the rats have eyes that glow in the dark. Bad mojo abounds.
Next, we see a spunky young group of ethnically-diverse teenagers who get the swell idea to buy the run-down house in the crime-ridden neighborhood and turn it into the best gosh-darned dance club in town. I guess that Up With People wasn't hiring. Anyway, they individually search the house and make a few brutally obvious comments to advance the plot. You know the type: "Gee willikers, I bet that our father, who grew up in this area as a boy and was good friends with Jimmy Bones, wouldn't be happy with us if he knew we were considering becoming small-business owners back on this crime-infested street he tried to leave far behind when he became a successful businessman right around the time Bones was killed." Fortunately, this painful exposition doesn't stand in the way of the main tone that any of them could die at any moment. Each has a near miss as the ghost of Jimmy Bones stalks the kids, who each go out alone to explore various rooms of the house. It's not new or unusual filmmaking, but the familiarity of genres like this is a lot of the appeal. We want to see the generic set-up lead to unusual and unexpected twists later, so early on in the movie, these teases are fun.
As the film progresses, we are introduced to the other main players who Snoop may or may not kill. Outside of the kids, none of whom is particularly memorable (though Khalil Kain recently made a memorable turn as Gio, a hero/villain on Angel), the most interesting parts are given to Foxy Brown herself, Pam Grier, and Bianca Lawson (Kendra from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) as her daughter, a girl who has never known the identity of her father. It bears noting here that she plays a woman who is approximately twenty years old, and her mother was in love with Jimmy Bones roughly 21 years ago. Do the math.
The mother/daughter combination has the power of second sight, and the elder makes her living telling the fortunes of others. She also foresaw the death of her beloved significant other the day it happened, but she was unable to talk him out of it, so there are guilt issues involved. There is also the matter of a dirty cop played by Michael T. Weiss, AKA The Pretender, and the local crack dealer who was unable to get Jimmy to sell out his family man to make drug money. It's these two gentlemen, plus Clifton Powell as the Scooby Gang's father, who comprise the core group of three assassins that the ghost of Bones wants to slay to gain his revenge. The mansion's renovation and introduction of new blood (literally) into the domain of Jimmy Bones allows this possibility. We can tell early on that the club's opening night will be memorable, so a lot of the first two acts is just a time killer to get to this bloodbath of wicked fun.
This is because Bones is not a horror film as much as it is a dark comedy along the lines of director Ernest Dickerson's previous effort, Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight. In fact, I walked away very impressed by how often and how hard I laughed during the movie. Dickerson gets a lot of enjoyment out of making audiences squirm (note for next time, big guy: fewer maggots) but overall, he offers an excellent effort here by combining just the right tones of creepy, mystical, and humorous for the body of the film. It makes the final act's totally unexpected turn to the comedic that much more unexpected, and thereby effective. Once Jimmy Bones returns in corporeal form to the real world, there are numerous lines from the people he encounters which I fully acknowledge many might find stupid but I found truly hilarious.
Bones is obviously not a film for everyone, and judging from its box-office total to date, it will probably be on video in record time, but if you like some humor in your horror, this is a movie that you should put on radar. It deserves a better fate.