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Case Number 05164

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The Bonesetter

Tempe Video // 2003 // 72 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // September 10th, 2004

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All Rise...

By the title, Judge David Johnson initially thought this was some kind of "experimental new dog" sci-fi movie, when it fact it turned out to be just a dog of a movie.

The Charge

Those who heal…can also cause pain.

Opening Statement

Who knew Ottowa was such a hotbed of horror?

Facts of the Case

Legend says that long ago there was a traveling bonesetter who would ride from town to town and snap people's broken limbs into place. Apparently this comprised the medical establishment back in the day, where in lieu of training or skills, all one needed was an iron grip and good upper body strength. But this particular bonesetter was notorious for leaving villages a few kids lighter than we he arrived. The child murderer was run out of town and set ablaze.but is he dead to stay?

Kyle Anderson (writer/director/producer/everything-elser Brett Kelly) and his new flame Madeline (Sherry Thurig) don't think so. In the quaint Canadian town of Munster, which boasts one police officer and everything of importance happens at the library, children have begun to disappear.

At first, the token disabled guy is accused of perpetrating the kidnappings, but when the mysterious Madeline rolls into town and starts—gasp!—checking out folklore books at the library and relaying lengthy bits of exposition, a new villain begins to emerge—it's The Bonestter, back from the grave! Kyle coordinates with Madeline, his friend Jackman (said lone officer), and Mindy, a librarian, to pursue The Bonesetter.

The group throws together a genius plot to snare the curmudgeon. Kyle carries around a bundle of clothes and a tape recorder projecting infant sounds to lure The Bonesetter, walks around a park for hours and hours, while Jackman stands at the ready. When the villain makes his appearance, Jackman miraculously spots him in the pitch black with some binoculars, and before the two heroes can corral the madman, he vanishes.

However, the diabolical Bonesetter underestimated the deductive capabilities of the protagonists, and soon finds himself pursued at his hideout. But will our heroes catch him in time before he can sacrifice the children in an ambiguous ritual that keeps him alive?

The Evidence

Here we have an extremely low-budget, home movie-like film, fronted by a one-man mini-studio. Sure, this isn't exceptional art by any means, but compared to the other drivel I had to endure courtesy of Tempe (Skate or Die, Quest for the Egg Salad), this is the studio's magnum opus.

I'll give Brett Kelly his due. For zero bucks, he put together a short film (72 minutes including credits) with okay pacing and actors—though hamstrung by a lack of ability—that take the movie seriously. The story is no worse than normal creature fare, and he managed to tack on a decent little twist ending. And he convinced Troma's Lloyd Kaufman to cameo as the town's mayor!

Alas, there's no escaping the Z-grade film values. Often, the sound dips in and out because the sound guy isn't pointing the microphone in the right direction, several shots are transparently amateurish, and while the cast members do give it their all, what floats to the surface are some laughable performances (stand-outs: the characters of Jackman and Madeline, whose dialogue is so stilted and wooden, I was looking for pull-strings on their stomachs).

I can't neglect some of the painfully contrived plot devices. The gang's big investigative break comes when Jackman identifies a chunk of cow manure left behind by The Bonesetter, which of course leads to the deduction that the evildoer is hiding out in a farm. The poor Bonesetter. So close to achieving immortality; who knew not watching where you step would bring about your eternal damnation into the fires of Hell?

The final act of the movie takes us to The Bonesetter's rural hideaway, and frustratingly, everything transpires in the dark, an atmosphere that is not the friend of an inexpensive camera.

Lots of bonus features accompany the disc. My personal favorites are the cast and crew interviews and the Sherry Thurig audition. There is tangible sense of the surreal as these folks sit in some guy's living room and ruminate about being "attracted to the project." And Thurig's big audition took place in a bar.

But that's not all! You get: an audio commentary by Brett Kelly, some behind-the-scenes footage, pointless camera tests, outtakes, and a short film. You have to hand it to these super-indy filmmakers-they take advantage of the DVD format.

Technically, there should be no surprise here: a tinny stereo audio presentation and a "mheh" full-screen transfer.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

There was at least one very creepy scene in the movie. Sherry Thurig was a last-minute addition to the cast, and a student in Brett Kelly's acting class. Onscreen, as their two characters' relationship grows, they lock up in a slurpy, messy kiss. Ecccccchhhhhh! That's your teacher, dude!

Closing Statement

Fourth-tier, super-low budget filmmaking (a step down from low-low-budget direct-to-video releases), The Bonesetter can be recognized for not insulting the viewer's intelligence, though it's not necessarily let off the hook for sucking an hour from the viewer's life.

The Verdict

Sure, guilty for generally sucking, but the court feels kind of bad about it.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 70
Audio: 60
Extras: 90
Acting: 40
Story: 65
Judgment: 65

Perp Profile

Studio: Tempe Video
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 72 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Horror

Distinguishing Marks

• Audio Commentary
• Cast and Crew Interviews
• Behind-The-Scenes Footage
• Camera Tests
• Outtakes and Bloopers
• Sherry Thurig Audition
• "Clowning Around" Short Film
• Trailers


• IMDb

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