Judge Clark Douglas was very disappointed to discover that this film had nothing to do with the prophet Ezekiel.
Some Secrets Won't Stay Buried.
The premise for Bone Dry is quite simple. One minute, a seemingly ordinary guy named Eddie (Luke Goss, One Night With the King) is enjoying a meal at a restaurant. The next minute, he's being hit over the head, and before you can say "Saw Meets Duel," Eddie is in the middle of the Mojave Desert. His wallet is gone, and he is equipped with a compass and a walkie-talkie, which allows him to communicate with Jimmy (Lance Henrikson, Aliens), the psychopath who started this mess. Jimmy is equipped with a truck and a lot of guns, and his directions are clear: "Walk north, or you and your family will die."
Along the way, there are plenty of sadistic games Eddie is forced to participate in, courtesy of Jimmy. Hey look, it's a bottle of water! Should Eddie drink it, or will it be poisoned? Hey, Eddie is naked and tied to a cactus! How is he going to get out of that without cutting himself to pieces? Hey, Eddie's compass is broken, so he has to make one with a needle and some water! If he uses his drinking water to do this, how is he going to survive? Hey…well, you get the idea. Then the Saw games of the first half are replaced by Duel games in the second half, as Eddie is dragged by a vehicle, run over by a vehicle, tied to a vehicle, and so on. This business goes on and on and on, reminding us of oh-so-many films that we have seen before while never quite managing to capture the memorable qualities of any of them. In particular (aside from the obvious influences I just mentioned), I thought of John Dahl's underrated Joy Ride, a similar film that managed to create a great deal of excitement, humor, and tension in creative ways.
The script is certainly contrived and unconvincing, and the performances don't help any. Luke Goss is genuinely miserable in the lead role, coming across as a seventh-rate Jude Law. Goss has two modes: whispering quietly in as banal a manner as possible, or yelling and swearing in as obnoxious a manner as possible. His dialogue mostly consists of the phrases "F—-- you," "F—-- me," and "F—-- this s—-." Veteran actor Lance Henrikson has a bit more presence as the villain, but he really seems a bit lost in the part, using an assembly line of tired clichés to form the character. Tommy "Tiny" Lister gets third billing on the DVD packaging, but his part is a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo.
The music in the film is provided by Scott Glasgow, a young composer whose work on films like Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles and Chasing Ghosts has impressed me. However, his effort this time seems overcooked, with the music laying on the atmosphere and artificial tension much too thickly. A film like this would probably be more effective with a spare score that captured the emptiness of the desert. Glasgow attempts to make it feel claustrophobic, like Jerry Goldsmith's work on Alien, but it doesn't work.
The one really notable attribute here is the cinematography by Kevin Ellis and Jon Darbonne, which is considerably better than you might expect for this kind of low-budget horror flick. They nicely capture the golden/brown/auburn tones of the desert, providing us with some pleasing images to look at while the film makes its way toward its limp finish. The DVD transfer is quite strong, and the audio does a particularly nice job with the sound design. Dialogue is a bit weak, but that has more to do with Goss' delivery than anything. If I've ever seen a performance that should have been dubbed, this one would be it.
The DVD packaging boasts that it is "packed with extra features!" While "packed" might be pushing it a great deal, there are a few items of interest here. A sloppy-looking "making of" documentary gives us some behind-the-scenes footage, and a commentary with Lance Henrikson and director Bret A. Hart (who likens Bone Dry to Hitchcock's great work, and has elected to label this film "a Bret A. Hart vision") is mildly engaging. There are also some throwaway deleted scenes (with commentary) and a "Pitch Trailer" for the film.
Ah, and here we are, at the end of the review. It's a nice thing, not having to talk about this movie much longer. No, it's by no means the worst thing I've ever seen…truly awful films tend to inspire a lot of thoughts. Bone Dry is the sort of banally bad movie that you don't enjoy while you watch it and that you forget about as soon as you're done with it. Still, this movie does seem like the sort of thing that Jimmy should have made Eddie sit through as another form of punishment. Saw continues to be one of the most influential films of recent times, and Bone Dry is another in an increasingly long line of failed imitations. Guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Allumination Filmworks
• Pitch Trailer
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