“This Halloween, unleash the Dogg,” suggests the advertising tagline for Bones, but it’s a little late for that, since “the Dogg” didn’t hit town till nearer Thanksgiving — a holiday suggestive of another animal, and one perhaps better suited to the film in question. Truth to tell, Bones isn’t as bad as it might have been — compared to the recent Soul Survivors it seems like near genius — but neither is it anything to get excited about. In its favor is a wonderfully creepy central set, a strange, decaying mansion in the worst part of a ghetto in an unnamed city. This was the former residence of Mr. Jimmy Bones (Snoop Dogg), a stereotypical gangster of those halcyon days of the “Blaxploitation” picture, who was murdered about 22 years ago. In other words, Mr. Bones (was no one aware of how hideously this suggests a minstrel show?) shuffled off his mortal coil about the same time his zoot suit and pimp-mobile went out of style. The house itself is a marvelous entity. And the opening scenes involving the deaths of a couple of kids from the forces in the house suggest that just maybe the movie’s going to be a lot better than you’d expect. Unfortunately, the plot then takes over and it is somewhat shy of marvelous with its trite story of some young entrepreneurs buying the place cheap with the idea of turning it into a hip-hop club. Naturally, things evolve in such a way that Jimmy returns from the dead (in a manner “inspired” by Hellraiser) to exact his revenge on the ones who killed him. Yes, that’s a premise that’s about as ho-hum as they come. But there’s worse in store (no, I don’t mean Snoop Dogg’s acting, which is…well, in a class by itself). Probably the worst of this worse are the flashback scenes to 1979, which don’t miss a stereotypical trick in its depiction of Jimmy and his associates — all of whom look like refugees from a really bad touring company production of Superfly. It’s painfully laughable — all the more so because it seems to be taking itself oh-so-seriously. (“Blaxploitation” icon Pam Grier should have known better.) Bones evidences almost no sense of humor about itself until quite late in the game, and when it does the film actually picks up briefly. The image of Jimmy carting around the disembodied head of one of his murderers while the head complains, “I killed you and you killed me. That makes us even. You don’t have to go all metafuckingphysical on me,” is engagingly twisted and suggests that this might have had the makings of a pretty savvy little horror flick had it gone more completely in this direction. That it opted for something less is too bad. There are some effective moments and many of the effects are quite unsettling. The CGI effects of shadowy terrors flitting along the walls of the mansion are very effective, though the film’s blood all looks like nothing so much as red paint, and the various bombardments of CGI maggots just don’t cut it (now, there’s a complaint I’ve never had about a movie before!). By the time Bones plods to its sub-Nightmare on Elm Street parallel world of the dead, it’s completely off the tracks — and its cheesier than Velveeta sequel-hopeful ending makes it just that much worse. It’s not unwatchable rubbish, but it’s certainly rubbish.
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