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Bones Blu-ray Review

Written by Robert Gold

Blu-ray released by Scream Factory

Bones Poster Large

Directed by Ernest Dickerson
Written by Adam Simon and Tim Metcalfe
2001, 97 minutes, Rated R
Released on March 31st, 2020

Snoop Dogg as Jimmy Bones
Pam Grier as Pearl
Khalil Kain as Patrick
Ricky Harris as Eddie Mack
Clifton Powell as Jeremiah Peet
Katharine Isabelle as Tia
Michael T. Weiss as Lupovich

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In 1979, Jimmy Bones was a beloved figure in the community who served as a sort of protector of the neighborhood. He had money, respect and the love of a beautiful woman named Pearl. When he refused to bring in hard drugs and the lottery, Jimmy was betrayed and murdered by a corrupt cop who forced those around him to participate in the killing. His body was hidden in the basement of his brownstone and in his absence the neighborhood quickly went to hell.

Twenty-two years later, four ambitious young adults plan to renovate the building into a night club. Patrick, his brother Maurice, their sister Tia and friend Bill set about the cleanup effort and Tia finds a large black dog in one of the rooms, which she promptly feeds and cares for. Other notable discoveries include a human jawbone in the parlor, bleeding pipes and a skeleton in the basement, but they are more worried about losing a pending permit than calling the police. They meet the lovely Cynthia and her mother Pearl, who warns them to stay away from the building and don’t feed that dog. Before long, Jimmy’s spirit is awakened and his skeleton slowly rejuvenates, sparking a series of supernatural events as he assumes his deadly revenge on those who crossed him, and anyone else who gets in his way.

There is a long history of producers trying to make movie stars out of musicians. It worked well for Elvis Presley (Jailhouse Rock) and David Bowie (The Man Who Fell to Earth), not so much for Mariah Carey (Glitter) or Vanilla Ice (Cool as Ice). In 2001, it was Snoop Dogg’s turn in the spotlight in Bones, a horror film about a big-hearted hustler who returns from the dead as a spirit looking for payback. This movie takes its lead from the 1976 classic J.D.’s Revenge and puts a modern spin on the material. Snoop is clearly the reason to watch, appearing largely in a series of flashbacks intercut throughout the contemporary narrative with the teens in the house. So much emphasis is placed on his principles that it is a bit jarring when he comes back in the second half as a demon who kills indiscriminately.

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Written by Adam Simon (Carnosaur) and Tim Metcalfe (Kalifornia), the script has the vibe of an old E.C. Horror comic, full of dark humor and social commentary. Jimmy Bones’ call for justice is fuzzy, as he frequently veers from his hit list and takes on innocent bystanders. His connection to this world is a Hellhound that resurrects its master by eating bad people, but only after waiting twenty years for some kids to disturb his skeletal remains. A scene involving Bones’ spirit messing with a girl in bed takes on a new level of creepiness when we later learn that she is related to him. Snoop gives a decent performance, particularly in the 1970s moments opposite the radiant Pam Grier (Coffy), but he never strikes me as particularly scary as an angry spirit.

Director Ernest Dickerson (Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight) works closely with cinematographer Flavio Labiano (The Day of the Beast) to give the film a distinct visual style. The widescreen image is striking with its bold use of color and creative camera work playing with light and shadow. Dickerson is clearly influenced by the work of legendary Italian filmmakers Mario Bava (Blood and Black Lace), Dario Argento (Suspiria) and Lucio Fulci (House by the Cemetery). This movie not only looks terrific, it also features some inspired practical effects, especially the wall of souls, the portal to the necropolis. There are a few dated CGI gags that stick out, but not enough to spoil the fun. Despite the many shortcomings in the script, there are some standout moments that keep things afloat.

Bones is far from being a good movie, but does entertain with its frequent stupidity. Characters repeatedly make dumb choices simply because the script orders them to. There is a giant missed opportunity with the Pearl/Bones dynamic, but Grier makes the best of the material provided. It is amazing how great she looks in the ‘70s threads and afro wig. It’s like time stops for this woman. If Snoop Dogg was hoping to step into the role of horror icon and start a franchise, audiences didn’t show him the same love and the film remains a solo venture. If you go in expecting nothing more than an urban horror story mixed with a dash of Blaxploitation cool, you will find a lot to like, but casual viewers will likely send this one to the dogs.

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Video and Audio:

The original camera negative has received an all-new 4K scan and restoration with impressive results. Presented in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the picture takes on new life with vibrant colors and natural looking flesh tones throughout. Black levels are rich and deep and there is plenty of small-object detail.

An aggressive DTS-HD MA 5.1 sound mix really gets the job done with plenty of rear channel activity. Atmospheric sound effects and music cues fill the room without stepping on dialogue levels that are free from any distortion. A DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo track is also provided.

Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.

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Special Features:

A vintage audio commentary featuring director Ernest Dickerson, screenwriter Adam Simon and Snoop Dogg delivers a steady stream of information about the production. Dickerson is quick to point out that the studio recut the picture, which was intended to play in chronological order without flashbacks. The guys talk about the characters, how the story came together and filming in Canada. Snoop isn’t overly vocal, but his comments are frequently humorous.

Dickerson returns for the new interview segment Building Bones (2020, 20 minutes) in which he begins with praise for his co-stars Snoop and Pam Grier. He shares several entertaining production stories and offers his thoughts on balancing horror and comedy. He goes on to discuss the production design of the necropolis and the main house location. Other topics include his deliberate use of color, his cinematic influences, the wall of bodies gag, the uninspired marketing campaign and the studio interference that changed his original vision.

Bringing Out the Dead (2020. 17 minutes) catches up with Adam Simon, who remembers how the project came together and the importance of atmosphere in a horror tale. He points out the great work of the production designer and make-up effects artists and shares his thoughts on the digital effects and audience response to the film.

Cinematographer Flavio Labiano happily reflects on his experience on this film in Urban Underworld (2020, 12 minutes). He details the choice of film stock and lenses he used and reveals some camera tricks he employed to achieve certain shots. He also talks about working with practical effects.

In Blood N Bones (2020, 15 minutes), special make-up effects artist Tony Gardner remembers how impressed he was by Dickerson’s knowledge of the genre and Snoop’s enthusiasm for the project. He details designing specific gags including the body wall. Other topics include the fumbled marketing campaign and the legacy of the movie. This segment offers some interesting behind-the-scenes footage of Gardner at work.

A traditional making-of featurette titled Digging Up Bones (2001, 24 minutes) includes interviews with Dickerson, Simon, Gardner, producers Peter Heller and Rupert Harvey, Snoop Dogg, Pam Grier and production designer Douglas Higgins. There is a generous amount of behind-the-scenes footage and concept art as well as a look at the special effects.

In the segment Urban Gothic: Bones and it’s Influences (2001, 19 minutes), Dickerson is joined by film historian David Del Valle to reflect on the study of fear and the familiar tropes of the genre. They see the picture as homage to the Italian style of Mario Bava, a mix of American Urban and European Gothic.

A collection of deleted scenes (25 minutes) plays with optional director commentary, starting with the extended title sequence. From there we get some character beats, extended scenes and abandoned sequences, all cut for pacing.

There are two music videos for Snoop Dogg’s Dogg Named Snoop (7 minutes).

The original EPK (2001, 11 minutes) is loaded with a mixture of behind-the-scenes footage and clips from the finished film. There is also a brief interview with Snoop.

The theatrical teaser and full trailer are included.

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Movie: Twoandahalfstars Cover
Buy Amazon Us
Video: Fourandahalfstars
Audio: Fourstars
Features: Fourstars
Overall: 4 Star Rating

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About The Author
Robert Gold
Author: Robert Gold
Staff Reviewer - USA
Robert's favorite genres include horror (foreign and domestic), Asian cinema and pornography (foreign and domestic). His ability to seek out and enjoy shot on video (SOV) horror movies is unmatched. His love of films with a budget under $100,000 is unapologetic.
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