This Month's Featured Equipment Reviews
Written by Mel Odom
Tuesday, 01 June 2004
|Bones (Platinum Series)
|New Line Home Entertainment
||Snoop Dogg, Pam Grier, Khalil Kain, Clifton Powell, Bianca Lawson, Michael T. Weiss
"Bones" bursts into the home theater with a throbbing basso beat from
the subwoofer on a surround sound system, as a man runs through the
night-shrouded street. Obvious fear motivates the guy, stoking the
viewer’s interest immediately. A thudding heartbeat later, the camera
pans to a building that looks like a skull, window eyes dormant with
vacancy but shadowed with dark purpose. The building sits alone in the
darkness, and the viewer can’t help but feel the weight of the
Then a hound with hellish red eyes races from the night, chasing after
the man. The story proceeds for a time, sleek and streamlined as a
sniper’s bullet. The movie’s subject matter and storytelling chooses
directness over subtlety. "Bones" is a horror story with Gothic
overtones and, well, makes no bones about that concept.
Director Ernest Dickerson serves up a bloody concoction that’s a blend
of straight-ahead American slasher and psychological Italian horror. In
fact, one of the scenes in the movie shows Pam Grier’s character
viewing Jimmy Bones’ hand emerging from the darkness in her bedroom.
That scene is pure homage to the Italian influence, and Dickerson
generously acknowledges this in one of the accompanying documentaries
on the DVD. Dickerson’s use of color, primarily red against the black
and dark shadowy backgrounds at the movie’s beginning, works to bring
out suspense and the supernatural. In later scenes, Dickerson uses
greens and blues for sensory impact.
After the hound disappears, the story switches to two white college
students trying to score crack in the ‘hood. Two local dealers set the
students up and steal their car. Hearing the car alarm, the students
return to where they left the car, only to find that the vehicle has
been taken. The approach of police scares the two students into the
nearest building: the skull-faced edifice that has become center stage
of the movie.
While the cops’ search for the college students continues for a short
time inside the house, Michael T. Weiss is introduced as Detective
Lupovich, a man with a checkered past who doesn’t travel on the right
side of the law. The detective calls an end to the chase, giving the
viewers the idea that he’s afraid of something inside the place. A
quick flashback to the world 20 years ago raises more questions for the
audience. The computer graphics of the sinister shadow stretching
across the walls and wearing Snoop Dogg’s face might be child’s play
for the cybernetically adept, but the effect is appropriately eerie and
full of foreboding.
The college students enjoy a short-lived reprieve. Out on the street
again, they get a warning from the man who ran for his life earlier.
The students ignore the warning, and they pay the price as the
monstrous dog lunges out of the shadows and tears them to shreds.
The movie segues to the credits, taking that time to build the world of
1979, showing the evil building in a totally different light back when
the neighborhood was in better times, and hinting at the man that was
Jimmy Bones. Snoop Dogg delivers a solid performance as the
neighborhood hero. Bones is a numbers runner and basically the
godfather to the streets. Everybody knows Bones. Urban myths cycle
about him, about his generous nature and about his bad side. But the
viewer is left wondering what happened to Jimmy Bones. The DVD box’s
back cover mentions that Bones was murdered, but the questions of who
and why remain.
Fast forwarding to the present, when "Bones" returns to the skull-faced
building. The structure is the only thing standing on that side of the
street in the old neighborhood. Desolation and hopelessness has filled
the same street where Jimmy Bones swaggered like an Olympian champion
among the people he protected.
Khalil Kain stars as Patrick, the leading force of an entertainment
group known as Resurrection Brothers (appropriately enough, by the end
of the movie), who specialize in spinning music for parties. Patrick
steps into the ruins of the building and outlines his plans to convert
the place into a club. Of course, every confirmed horror movie
aficionado knows that this is when events really get weird and
dangerous. Tia, Patrick’s sister, even makes a friend of the hound from
hell, making every viewer instantly suspicious about what’s going on.
Pam Grier plays the former girlfriend of Jimmy Bones. Grier’s character
has a daughter (Bianca Lawson, who brings a sensual edge to the
proceedings) from her relationship with Bones, and currently runs a
shop specializing in fortune telling and séances. She catches Patrick
and his friends at the building and tells them to go away, and not to
feed the dog. "Some holes can’t be filled," the fortuneteller says.
"Some hunger can’t be satisfied."
The screenplay by Adam Simon and Tim Metcalfe is simple and dead-on.
Nothing in the script or the movie is played over the top, and the
logical progression of the story and the horror steadily mounts. Even
though a jaundiced viewer can tell what is coming by the beats, the
story never misses a connection, constantly dialing up the tension and
leaving the audience wanting to see Jimmy Bones rise from the dead.
After all, seeing Snoop Dogg take on the mantle of the latest urban
nightmare is what brought most of the theater crowd to watch.
In one of the attached documentaries, Dickerson and Simon admit that
the finished movie doesn’t follow the original script. Where the script
at first progressed linearly, the finished version of the movie
intercuts episodically, revealing the various stories that form the
overall tapestry that is Jimmy Bones: his beginning, his end, and his
resurrection—plus a glimpse of his dark future.
The special effects of the movie are low-key by "Matrix" standards, but
extremely intense. From the elaborate and arcane shadows that skate
across the walls and ceilings at the beginning and through the
mid-point of the movie, to the wall of dead that writhes and screams,
the films special effects crew serves up a generous helping of fear and
disgust. In a later interview, loaded onto the DVD, Dickerson talks
about the need for both computer graphic effects and old-style
Hollywood gore effects rendered through models and animatronics.
A true horror film fan will relish the documentaries included on the
DVD. In addition to explaining and illustrating in general how the wall
of writhing dead was created (out of plastic trash bags, goop, and
willing belief on part of the viewer), Dickerson and Simon discuss how
the movie was chopped into pieces and set up to flow differently. Those
changes and the effects they were meant to engineer are discussed, and
the viewer who takes the time to watch the supplementary material will
get something of a refined education in the art of moviemaking.
Watching the deleted scenes will further that education, as well as
making those willing to invest the time more knowledgeable about some
of the intricacies of the characters. And, of course, those scenes and
that information are just plain fun.
The movie can almost be divided into two parts, though. The first part
is all about Jimmy Bones, who he was and what happened to him at the
hands of his friends and enemies. The viewer is treated like a
detective as the writers and director carefully move the pieces around
until a mystery is both presented and preserved. But the second part
(roughly the last third) of the movie is purely the story of Jimmy
Bones returning from the dead to seek vengeance on those who wronged
Snoop Dogg strides out of the yawning, burning hell of his old
brownstone. Clad in a long duster and wearing a trademark hat, with his
knife in hand, Jimmy Bones is death come walking. When first discussing
the possibility of doing a film, Snoop Dogg said he wanted to do a
horror film and that Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name was one of his
favorite celluloid characters. "Bones" seems to lose a step in its
final third of the movie, giving us no central hero to root for or fear
for, but by this time Bones has become the center of attention.
Fans of the horror genre and gory special effects will find "Bones" a
welcome addition to their DVD home library. People interested in
possibly working in the horror moviemaking industry will appreciate the
commentary provided by Dickerson and Simon. During their audio
commentary, Dickerson and Simon still seem to get lost in the movie,
growing quiet at the same points the home viewer gets tense. Just as
the movie still has that effect on the creative minds behind the story,
the tale of Jimmy Bones’ vengeance grips the viewer, whether he or she
watches for the first time or again and again. Jimmy Bones may well be
New Line Cinema’s next franchise, following in the bloody footprints of
other horror brand names like Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers.
|English Dolby Digital DTS ES 6.1 Surround; English Dolby Digital EX 5.1 Surround Sound; English Stereo Surround Sound
Commentary with Snoop Dog, Director Ernest Dickerson, Screenwriter Adam
Simon; Original Documentaries, DIGGING UP BONES and URBAN GOTHIC: BONES
AND ITS INFLUENCE; Deleted Scenes with director commentary; Music
Video; Theatrical Press Kit; Theatrical Trailer; English subtitles
DVD-ROM Features: Script-to-Screen, Link to Original Website, Hot Spot
(not available on Apple Macintosh)
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||42-inch Toshiba HD Projection TV