With "Bones" being the second horror film to open the week before Halloween, it makes the already-mediocre "Thirteen Ghosts" suddenly seem like a classic of the genre, in comparison. Directed without flare, thought, or creativity by Ernest Dickerson (1995's "Tales from the Crypt Presents Demon Knight"), "Bones" is piss-poor, bottom-of-the-barrel junk any way you slice it. At the very least, bypassing theaters and sending this one straight to the back of video shelves would have been more appropriate.
Logic apparently wasn't on director Dickerson's short list, and it shines through on the, at times, incomprehensible specifics of the plot. Patrick (Khalil Kain), along with white half-sister Tia (Katharine Isabelle), and friends Bill (Merwin Mondesir) and Maurice (Sean Amsing), are upper-middle-class teenagers who have decided to give back to a nearby slum that Patrick's dad (Clifton Powell) used to live in by opening up a nightclub in the center of the city. The location they choose is a dilapidated house haunted by the spirit of Jimmy Bones (Snoop Dogg), a well-meaning black man who in 1979 was murdered in cold blood for attempting to help his faltering community. At first using an angry black dog with glowing, red eyes to do his bidding, Jimmy's remains (buried in the basement) slowly rebuild themselves so he can seek revenge on those who wronged him.
Save for a handful of effective "jump" moments, "Bones" starts off slow, becomes tedious, then goes further downhill with a final one-third that is as absurdly bad as it is dishearteningly silly. Dickerson, accompanied by screenwriters Adam Simon (1993's "Carnosaur") and Tim Metcalfe (1993's "Kalifornia"), have made a gruesome slasher film with a primarily black cast. While this is certainly a change of pace, it holds absolutely no bearing on just how inanely embarrassing the project is. The movie begins as a serious one with topical themes concerning drugs and the sad state of some inner-city, urban areas, then degenerates into preposterousness and cheap laughs. For no good reason, two characters continue to talk long after their heads have been chopped off.
With good-guy-turned-vigilante-slasher-villain Jimmy Bones, Snoop Dogg has had three failed performances this year (the others being "Baby Boy" and "Training Day"), confirming that he is no actor. The rest of the cast appear to have taken heavy sedatives throughout the film shoot. Khalil Kain (1997's "Love Jones"), as Patrick, has no sense of presence or charisma; Katharine Isabelle (1998's "Disturbing Behavior" and 2001's "Ginger Snaps"), as Patrick's sister, Tia, is too talented to be in this; screen icon Pam Grier (2001's "Ghosts of Mars"), as Jimmy's former psychic girlfriend who senses he has returned from the dead, has no excuse for getting cast here; and Bianca Lawson (2001's "Save the Last Dance"), as Grier's daughter, couldn't be more boring if she tried with all her might. The rest of the players are so forgettable and flat that they need not be mentioned.
Director of photography Flavio Labiano tries to accredit "Bones" with a stylish, sleek look, but all he has done is formed a transparent mask to hide the low-grade premise and writing from its bleak fate. The soundtrack, filled with rap and R&B, is both generic and cloying. A horror flick should always have the end credits play with a scary, exciting, and/or moody music score or song, not a despicable rap ditty in which literally every other word is "motherf****r."
Most of all, Dickerson's fatal misdirection in "Bones" is largely confusing suspense and atmosphere with blood, guts, and a tidal wave of maggots that outdoes Linda Blair's pea soup puking in 1973's "The Exorcist." Distasteful and just plain cheap, this is big-screen moviemaking nearly at its worst. The promotional tagline for "Bones" fittingly reads, "Unleash the Dogg." The filmmakers sure did, and in more ways than one.
Copyright © 2001 Dustin Putman