Monday, December 12, 2005

Bone Sickness-2004

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Brian Paulin, the director who brought us Mummy Raider starring Misty Mundae, now brings us Bone Sickness. It’s a story about Kristen McNetti (Darya Zabinski), whose husband, Alex, is suddenly struck one year previous with a degenerative bone disease. Due to what I think is the inability to pay for proper treatment, she turns to a friend, Thomas Granger, a Morgue attendant. In all his scientific wisdom, he provides her with a combination corpse marrow and red meat mixture to blend into her husband’s food. This is supposed to make him better. Of course, it doesn’t. It makes him horribly ill, with wormy-squirts coming from most orifices. It’s plain to see that he can’t possibly improve if he’s digesting nasty corpse marrow bits, so what’s the next logical step? Of course, he needs fresher marrow bits! But, by this time he’s acquired a taste for the recently deceased, and now the movie is a circus.

What started out with promise, ended with a kind of disappointment. Not the kind of disappointment one gets when they sit there for 98 minutes and watch something start out all right and then slowly spiral down into a sloppy, stinking mess. It’s the kind when you just know that somewhere in all the chaos, there is a decent, cohesive film that one could enjoy. What’s particularly frustrating about Bone Sickness is that the film that it could have been would have been leaps and bounds better than 98% of the low-budget zombie films being churned out at a head-spinning pace in people’s backyards and garages.

The corpse-including concoction given to Alex to cure him is reminiscent of the Voodoo zombie powder written about in Wade Davis’s The Serpent and the Rainbow. However, the effect is not a zombie, but a “Necro-junky,” as he is referred to in the film (side-effect of this is suddenly growing your hair long and letting it get greasy.) It’s an updated, Americanized twist on the voodoo myth which is a much appreciated shift from the chemical/radioactive/etc reasons we’ve been given as of late for a zombie outbreak. Unfortunately, about halfway through the film, things begin to get convoluted, and never stop. In fact, it actually seems to gain momentum once the ball of confusion gets rolling.

Is Alex a zombie? You don’t know. Why are the zombies rising? You don’t know. Is his best friend sleeping with his wife? You don’t know. Do any of the chicks in this film keep their clothes on? Okay, the answer is: one and a half. Why are there scorpions? You don’t know. Are those goblins?? Yes, but we don’t know where they came from, or why. Yes, I said “goblins,” and your guess is as good as mine. Most of the movie is spent in complete and utter befuddlement, only to have some of it explained in a spurt of dialog, too little, too late. Suspense can be built by tossing a few perplexing moments at the audience, but to throw them hand over fist and offering absolutely nothing to help tie things together until much of the action is done is useless, and a bit frustrating.

What Bone Sickness does have going for it are some great zombies. Very serious attention was paid to the making of, the lighting of and the overall appearance of the real stars of the film. Here we have a gaggle of fiends recalling Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things. Instead of the very popular fast-paced, poorly cut, quick zombie attack, with a speed metal accompaniment, Paulin hands us a classic rise from the grave. And judging by the Behind-the-Scenes footage, it’s a graveyard built in a garage. I’m always impressed by low-budget filmmakers who actually think a scene’s important enough to build a set for. The hard work paid off, and the result is a creepy trip back to the good ol’ days when zombies were slow, and scary…not so much because they were going to eat you, but because they were spooky, decaying corpses that were shuffling around after you. That’s not to say that there’s no flesh eating…

…because there is. Paulin didn’t skimp on the gore and blood, though the latter is a bit watery. The story did seem to suffer for it towards the ending, when meaningful action that helped the audience stay abreast of the situation was lost in a string of interesting and creative effects gags. That’s the disadvantage. The advantage is that you get to watch a string of interesting and creative effects gags.

Bone Sickness also suffers from something I often wonder about in these low-budget jobbies: where is the wardrobe? How many of these do I have to sit through in which I am asked to believe that the girl with the Betty Page haircut and funky-punk shirt is supposed to be the nosey neighbor in some nameless suburbia? How many times must I try to convince myself that although the characters are peppered with tattoos, and sometimes the odd piercing and unnaturally colored hair, and although their homes are decorated in the hippest punk-rocker fashion (how much animal print can one really take?), are your garden-variety people? Yep, just normal everyday people with normal everyday jobs, who water their flowers and call over the fence between yards to each other asking how-have-you-been-lately-Mrs.-so-and-so? Is it really that hard to dress a set? Is a real wardrobe and a wig really too much to request? Or, a properly placed, concealing sleeve, perhaps? (sigh)

Okay, so anyway, I lied when I said the zombies were the stars of this film, though they are a very close second. The real star of Bone Sickness is Rich George, who plays the sick husband, Alex. I can’t really praise his acting skills, I’m sorry to say. But what can you say about a person who puts a good handful of live squirmy-worms in his mouth, sets himself on fire, and a variety of other haphazard stunts…all for a low budget zombie flick? You say: without you, this movie wouldn’t have been nearly as entertaining. Thank you.

Altogether, Bone Sickness is both fun and difficult to sit through; fun for the action and effects, but difficult due to the mix-mangle story and continuity. In the end, you're appreciative, but not neccessarily satisfied.

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