starring Snoop Doggy Dogg, Pam Grier, Michael T. Weiss, Clifton Powell
screenplay by Adam Simon & Tim Metcalfe
directed by Ernest R. Dickerson
by Walter Chaw Bones, from Spike Lee's former cinematographer Ernest Dickerson (director of the underestimated horror-comedy Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight), is torpedoed first and foremost by rapper/felon Snoop Doggy Dogg's monstrous ego and lack of anything resembling a sense of humour about himself. The result is a film that merely rip-offs Hellraiser (down to the reconstituted corpse), A Nightmare on Elm Street (down to the floppy-hat-wearing vengeful ghoul), and, most peculiarly of all, Dario Argento's Inferno and Suspiria (burning hellmouth, rain of maggots, man-eating dog). Bones also borrows liberally from the blaxploitation flicks of the Seventies in Snoop's period pimp outfit and the presence of Pam Grier in her Foxy Brown attire, yet it lacks the camp appeal that excuses miniscule budgets and a lack of craft. The one thing that separates Bones from all the films it's trying to emulate is its noteworthy inability to muster either fear or fun.
In extended flashback sequences, we're introduced to Jimmy Bones (Dogg), a numbers runner in 1979 shown to be as beloved by his neighbourhood as Vito Corleone was by his own--a puzzling conceit, as the only insight we ever gain into Jimmy's philanthropist cant is when he gives two dollars to a kid who wants a popsicle. In the present day, four teenagers buy Jimmy Bones's ludicrous-looking mansion with the intent of turning it into a hip-hop dance club. Predictably, a Spam-in-a-cabin scenario flowers on the night of the big opening as Jimmy Bones comes back from the dead, complete with his retro wardrobe, to wreak havoc on those who betrayed him.
The blood in Bones looks like grade-Z red paint from Hugh M. Woods, while the CGI special-effects are so maladroit they appear to have been composited using a Commodore 64. And with about twenty minutes left to go in the film, Jimmy Bones's house of evil burns to the ground, which would appear to be a pretty major spoiler except that the last twenty minutes are spent in Jimmy Bones's very same house of evil. How our heroes can run from the bogeyman up staircases and into floors and attics that have been levelled by fire is just one of those questions that would have been better asked during the post-production process.
The answer to the nagging question as to who the key demographic for this film is seems to be, broadly and insultingly, urban teenagers willing to sneak into an R-rated film to see white women presented as bimbos or trophies (or bimbo trophies) and black actors in roles traditionally reserved for white thesps in similarly atrocious knock-off thrillers. The sad by-product of true equality in cinema is the creation of movies by and for minorities that are as offensive and inept as their mainstream counterparts. Seen in this way, the badness of Bones strikes a blow for the civil rights movement--at least in the same way as "Good Times" and "What's Happening!!!" did in the '70s. Originally published: October 24, 2001.