Unleash tha Dogg!
Those wacky movie executives. They'll give a movie deal to just about anyone whose face or name is on the public's collective consciousness. Such was the case for gangster rap star Snoop Doggy Dog. With his laid back weed smokin', drug tokin' demeanor and hip hop delivery, Snoop Dogg was offered the starring role in Bones, a horror film about an ex-pimp/drug dealer (I think) from 1979 who comes back from the dead to exact revenge upon his betrayers twenty years later. Sadly, the world was apparently not ready for a ghetto horror movie starring good old Snoop, as Bones did a swan dive when it hit theaters during Halloween 2001. However, thanks to New Line's Platinum Series, Bones is back and more terrifying than ever on DVD!
Facts of the Case
It's been over twenty years since the demise of Jimmy Bones, one of the baddest, meanest mothers in the ghetto. Bones was betrayed by some of his closest friends and "business associates"; murdered, wrapped in a bloody dress, and buried in the basement of a neighborhood building, Bones is now history…or is he?
Years later, a group of teenagers have decided to utilize the ghetto building (now rundown and dilapidated) to create the hippest and most happening nightclub around. As their plans come into fruition, the boys, led by the mild mannered Patrick (Khalil Kain, Love Jones), think they've got a goldmine on their hands. But when they discover the corpse of Jimmy Bones buried in the basement, all hell is about to break loose! Pearl (Pam Grier, Ghosts Of Mars), a local psychic, warns the boys that the building is home to evil, and a gateway into something worse. Her daughter (Bianca Lawson, Save The Last Dance), of course, doesn't listen, opting instead to hang out with the guys as they remodel their new digs.
Soon Jimmy Bones is free of his devilish confines and ready for revenge. Searching out those who murdered him, including Patrick's father Jeremiah (Clifton Powell, Next Friday), a crooked cop (Michael T. Weiss, Freeway), and Jimmy's ex-girlfriend Pearl, Jimmy won't rest until his mission of terror is complete!
At least Bones tries to do something different with the horror genre. We've come to a crucial moment in the history of horrific cinema—it's time to either stop making teenybopper Scream knock-offs, or close the roller coaster down for good. Bones is a decent start to a turning point in that depressing trend. While Bones is by no means a great horror movie, it does attempt to add a bit of a spin on the nearly defunct horror genre.
I've got to give a standing ovation to those who cast Mr. Dogg in the role of Jimmy Bones. For years I've been lamenting about how Dogg is the creepiest guy this side of the bone yard—he's so laidback and mellow that you just KNOW there's an evil side waiting to get out (no one in Hollywood can say "Shit, ain't no thang, brother" more frighteningly than Snoop). With the role of Jimmy Bones, Dogg doesn't stray far off course from his own persona. I mean, let's face it, Bones is just like Dogg, only he's cheated death and can turn into a possessed animal at will. Otherwise, they are really one in the same. Dogg gives an effectively convincing performance as the reanimated Bones, adding a touch of class to his already classy outfit (and by this I mean long straight hair, a menacing looking leather outfit, and facial fuzz that looks eerily like pubic hair).
Even though Bones' plot is simple and straightforward—Jimmy is back from the dead to find those that did him wrong—director Earnest Dickerson (also an acclaimed cinematographer for Spike Lee) knows how to effectively wring out scares from the script. The scenes are often set up with a glowing green look or drab grays; this effective use of color is what gives Bones its distinct flair of style. More than a dumb dead teenager movie, Bones even has a message: don't do drugs or you'll end up a supernatural corpse that can turn into a multitude of different beasts. I think that's a message we can all live by.
But hold your horses. Bones isn't all it's cracked up to be. There are just as many things wrong as there are right; the mish mash of comedy, horror and blaxsploitation doesn't really gel. Aside from Snoop Dogg and Pam Grier as his girlfriend, none of the other characters in Bones rise to become anything particularly special. While it's a slickly produced thriller, the center often feels a bit hollow and the movie steals liberally from many other films (of them I tallied Silence Of The Lambs, A Nightmare On Elm Street, Candyman, and Tales From The Hood).
Which brings us back to the beginning. Yes, Bones plagiarizes in areas, but at least the filmmakers tried to do something new. Even if they didn't succeed, Bones is still worth your time. More so than any horror flick starring anyone from Dawson's Creek of the WB network, and we can all thank the good Lord for that blessing.
Bones is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Excellent! Beautiful! Bravo! While all these words may not sum up the content of Bones, they sure do cover how this nearly flawless transfer looks. The dark grays and blacks are spot on, the color schemes are even and bright, and the picture displays a wonderful richness to it that's often missing in many horror DVD transfers. New Line has once again stepped up to the plate and have come out with a homer on this DVD transfer.
Equally impressive are the Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and DTS 6.1 soundtracks. Both of these tracks are an excellent workout for your sound system—there are many instances of surround use during the entire movie. Voices and effects swirled around me as if I was in the fifth level of hell myself. The bass is nice and thick with all aspects of the dialogue, effects and music clear of any distortion. If I was forced at gunpoint to choose one of these tracks, I'd go with the 5.1—for some reason, it just sat with me better than the DTS 6.1 track. Also included on this disc is a Dolby 2.0 soundtrack in English, as well as subtitles and closed captions in English.
New Line has always been a huge supporter of DVD, and with this "Platinum Edition" of Bones, they don't make any exceptions. Bones has a vast array of extra features for fans to shuffle through. Starting off the disc is a commentary track by director Earnest Dickerson, actor Snoop Dogg, and writer Adam Simon. The track often serves up some information on the production, but unfortunately it often slips into dead space and the participants commenting on what's happening on-screen (…"…and now we see that Jimmy is tearing a man apart…I love this scene…"). I did find it interesting that the 1979 shots were filmed in Vancouver, Canada. Yes, Canada is THE place to go if you're a gangster. I can see the gangsters there now: "Oui, oui, you mother humper…give me your wallet, eh?"
Two original documentaries are included: Digging Up Bones and Urban Gothic: Bones And Its Influences. "Digging Up Bones" is a 24-minute documentary about how Bones came to be. This feature includes interviews with Earnest Dickerson, writer Adam Simon, producers Peter Heller and Rupert Harvey, and Pam Grier. The feature delves into how the story was written, and how the filmmakers were sort of looking to make a horror villain in the vein of Freddy Kruger (Snoop insisted he play the bad guy). There's a lot of fawning over Snoop (typical sound bites: "He has such a beautiful face," "He has such movie star potential," "His talent makes me orgasm uncontrollably…," et cetera), as well as a lack of real in-depth information about the movie. Overall this is a nice, if insubstantial, featurette. "Urban Gothic: Bones And Its Influences" is a 19-minute piece that sort of waxes nostalgia as the filmmakers from the first feature (including the first featurette's interviewees, as well as production designer Douglas Higgins, cinematographer Flabio Laviano, historian David De Valle, and producer Alfredo Leone) discuss the horror genre in general. There's a lot of discussion about the old Universal monster movies, as well as the films of Mario Brava and clips from such classic horror movies as Blood and Black Lace and Baron Blood. The point of this featurette, I suppose, is to peg-hole where Bones fits into horror history. Somewhat interesting, though nothing I'd ever watch again.
Fourteen deleted and extended scenes are included with optional commentary by the director. I found most of this footage to be rather boring and smartly trimmed from the final film. However, there are a few interesting scenes, and the commentary helps put the sequences in context of the film.
Finally there are two music videos by Snoop Dogg (one live and one regular), as well as information on the cast and crew, some rather extensive production notes, and a theatrical trailer for Bones presented in anamorphic widescreen.
There have been a lot better horror movies, but never one where the main villain is played by Snoop Dogg. While I'm not a fan of his music, I will say that the guy has a fascinating screen presence. I also laughed hysterically when Snoop noted in the commentary track that "crack kills." I'm glad that we've finally figured out who the best spokesperson against drugs is: SNOOP! Bones is an above average tale, and for that it's easily worth the rental. New Line has, as usual, done an excellent job on this Platinum Edition DVD.
Bones and New Line are free to go. Now it's time to go smoke up a fat blunt doobie and bury my local pimp in an unmarked grave. Peace up, y'all!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: New Line
• Commentary Track by Director Earnest Dickerson, Actor Snoop Dogg, and Writer Adam Simon
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