Judge Mitchell Hattaway looks nice but cannot act.
An incredible treasure. A terrifying curse.
Hey, can you hand me that gun over there? Why? Because I just found a barrel of fish.
Facts of the Case
Three hot babes, a bad rapper, an ineffectual hero, and a horny idiot head to a Caribbean island to film a reality television series. They accidentally resurrect a pirate who pissed off some "filthy natives" (his words, not mine) a couple hundred years ago and was consequently cursed to spend eternity in "hell on earth" (their words, not mine). Feel free to go ahead and start laughing.
Anybody out there own Dave Attell's Skanks for the memories… CD? You know that joke he tells about making fun of someone so much you should call them and thank them for all the fun you've had at their expense? Well, when I finish typing this I'm going to call Daniel Zirilli. Who is Daniel Zirilli? Daniel Zirilli is the founder of Pop Art Film Factory. Daniel Zirilli has directed videos for numerous hip-hop and rap artists. Daniel Zirilli has directed a number of straight-to-video movies, including such classics as Voodoo Mardi Gras and Black Spring Break 2: The Sequel. Daniel Zirilli is the man who co-wrote and directed Cross Bones. To this sterling list of accomplishments you can add the following: Daniel Zirilli has made me pray for the cold, sweet kiss of Death.
(For those of you who don't already know, the worse a movie is the more I tend to tear into it in a very detailed manner. In other words, this review might be a little long. With that out of the way, allow me to share my pain.)
Cross Bones starts badly and gets worse. Flashbacks chronicle Red Blood's (he's the pirate) bad luck streak during a fateful voyage through the Caribbean (which looks an awful lot like the Florida Keys). First he pisses off his crew, who mutiny and leave him to pilot his ship on his own. (This ship is the crappiest pirate ship ever; it's actually a cheap, plastic-looking mock-up that serves as a tourist attraction in Key West. To make matters worse, in long shots it looks like it's only about twelve feet long.) Well, next thing you know he is captured by the British and locked up. Not to worry, because soon the jailers all come down with yellow fever, which manages to kill all of them in a span of about ten seconds (why the inmates don't contract it is beyond me). Red Blood (played by Joseph Marino, who cannot act) steals the treasure stored in the jail, hops in a dinghy, and rows to another island (squint and you can make out the logo of the Japanese company that manufactured the oars he's using). He buries his treasure in a hole about eighteen inches deep and starts walking across the island. That's when he runs afoul of the natives; see, they're trying to sacrifice a topless chick (played by Temptation Island alum Maria Santos, who looks nice but cannot act), and Red Blood kills one guy in an attempt to steal the holy amulet the topless chick is wearing. Well, the natives don't take too kindly to this, so they put a blood curse on Red Blood, a curse which can only be reversed by fresh blood. (Oh, yeah, the natives are all portrayed by fat, stoned, unknown rappers, one of whom is named Puddy Tat. I swear.)
Anyway, jump forward to present day. A reality show producer named Martin (Joseph Jones, who cannot act) is heading for a new shoot with his girlfriend Audra (Survivor alum Jessie Camacho, who looks nice but cannot act); they are riding in his Humvee, which is obviously not traveling but is instead being rocked from side to side by a couple of crew members. They meet up with the cast of Martin's new show, hop on what is supposed to be a yacht but is actually a fishing boat, and head out to sea.
Included in the show's cast is Tony (Big Brother alum Hardy Hill, who cannot act), the level-headed hero who pretty much does nothing. Then there's Scott (Kevin Hawke, who cannot act), who spends most of his time bragging about the size of his crank. Serena (Mayro Soto, who looks really nice but cannot act) is the kindly veterinarian who used to be a cop but quit when she grew tired of killing people in the line of duty. Tris (Kristen Ellich, who looks nice but cannot act) is the bubble-headed blonde who wants to know if she's allowed to bring her vibrator to the island. Melissa (Merlynne Williams, who looks…ah, you know) is the resident bitch determined to win the game by any means necessary. Last, and certainly least, is Greedy G (J-Shin, who can't rap or act), a stereotypical, loudmouthed hip-hopper who comes across like he's the bastard child of Stepin Fetchit.
Everyone stands on deck, drinks some Pabst Blue Ribbon, and dances to what Greedy G says is his hot new single (but is obviously performed by a woman). The cast is then introduced to Gus (John Sanzari, who cannot act), the show's lone cameraman (I guess maybe this is a public access reality show). They reach the island, where Martin gives them the tools they'll need to survive and shows them the shoot's remote cameras, which are wedged in trees along the beach. Let me tell you, these cameras are freaking amazing! Not only can they focus, zoom, and record on their own, but they can also pan. That's right. One of these cameras is wedged tight into the fork of a tree, but it somehow manages to perform a 180 degree pan and follow Tony and Serena as they walk along the shore. Ain't technology amazing? Martin also tells them not to venture to the other side of the island, but you just know somebody will.
Okay, so the women start building a shelter. How do they go about this? They cut down palm fronds and stack them in a big pile. (Where's Mary Ann when you need her?) Tony and Greedy G go looking for food. They eventually cross over to the other side of the island (told ya), where they find the dormant Red Blood lying in a pit. Tony cuts his hand on the pirate's knife while trying to grab Red Blood's treasure map. Tony's blood spatters on the pirate. Red Blood wakes up and eats Tony. Greedy G runs screaming away like a little wuss, but not before managing to snatch the map.
Gus shoots footage of Tony and Serena, all the while encouraging Tony to "tap that ass" (his words, not mine, although I agree with the sentiment); Red Blood sneaks up on Gus and kills him. Greedy G makes it back to camp and tells everyone what happened, but of course no one believes him. Greedy G gives Martin the pirate's map. Night rolls around and Red Blood goes down to the dock and climbs aboard the boat. He finds a lingerie-clad Audra in bed asleep. Red Blood licks her belly, which causes her to moan with delight. He then gouges out her eyes (damn fool). We then cut back to the island (where it is broad-frigging-daylight!), where Greedy is loading his .357. Melissa wanders off to pee. A few minutes later night falls on the island. Melissa doesn't come back, so Tony goes looking for her, although he really shouldn't bother, as Red Blood has already found her and slit her throat (damn fool).
Martin takes the treasure map and heads back to the boat, finds Audra, and dumps her ass over the side. He then sails off. The others go down to the dock, see Audra's body, and run back. Red Blood grabs Tris, but nobody seems to notice. Serena and Tony run to Martin's control room, which is nothing more than a pup tent containing a folding chair and a laptop computer. (Kind of puts what Coppola used on One From the Heart to shame, doesn't it?) Red Blood tells Tris he will spare her life if she squeals like a pig; Tris does her best Ned Beatty impression, but Red Blood reneges on his promise and kills her (damn fool). Tony finds an inflatable boat and a motor. Red Blood sneaks up and grabs Greedy G. Red Blood orders Serena to find him a boat so he can reclaim his treasure. Serena tells him about the inflatable craft. Red Blood says he does not know how to pilot such a vessel. Serena says she can. Red Blood slits Greedy G's throat and forces Tony and Serena into the boat.
They set out, and Red Blood quickly forces Tony over the side of the boat. Red Blood and Serena make it to the island where the pirate had left his treasure. Martin is there, and he has already dug up the pirate's booty. Red Blood finds Martin and skins him alive. Red Blood forces Serena to load the treasure onto the fishing boat. Red Bloods tells her to set sail, but Serena says the keys are missing. Tony suddenly shouts at Red Blood. The pirate turns, sees Tony standing about ten yards away with the keys in hands (and looking nothing at all like a man who just swam fifty miles), and goes into action. Tony and Red Blood fight. Red Blood stabs Tony in the chest. Serena bashes Red Blood's head in with a rock. Tony, bleeding like a stuck pig, tells Serena to leave him. A crying Serena makes her way back to the boat. A skinless Martin staggers up to her on the beach. Serena screams and runs. She makes it back to the boat and sails away. The narrator informs us that Red Blood's body was never found. Red Blood rises through the crimson waters and laughs into the camera. A pirate rap plays as the end credits roll. (Whew, I think I need to lie down.)
See, I told you it was awful. Cross Bones is the kind of movie that gives no-budget filmmaking a bad name. It's sub-amateurish at every level. The acting, writing, direction, and effects are atrocious. And the makeup! Halfway through the flick the decaying-flesh appliance on Marino's neck comes unglued, and he spends the rest of the movie looking like he's sporting a turkey wattle. The photography is just as inept; visually the movie looks like it was shot by a blind, one-armed chimp. (It was actually photographed by Neal L. Fredericks, who died in a watery plane crash after principal photography had wrapped. No disrespect to the dead, but if you gotta go, God forbid it should be while working on a movie such as this. By the way, Daniel Zirilli was on the same plane when it went into the drink, but he made it out okay. I'm now going to end this aside before I say something really mean.) Bottom line: Cross Bones blows.
The transfer sucks. The movie was shot primarily on Super 16, and the picture is grainy, noisy, and washed-out. The footage meant to be part of the reality show was shot on digital video; this is a marginal improvement over the Super 16 footage, but it's nevertheless rife with motion artifacts and jagged lines. The 5.1 track only escapes the center channel during the opening credits. Other than that it's pretty much mono all the way, and rather weak, flat mono at that. There's no life in the track whatsoever; the dialogue is buried in the mix, with the exception of the laughable narration, which overwhelms the other audio elements. For extras you get a making-of featurette which consists of random footage of the female cast screaming and Joseph Marino standing in shallow water while buckets of cherry Kool-Aid are poured over his head in what I can only assume is an attempt to simulate blood. There is also a photo gallery, which is nothing more than a series of random Polaroid snapshots, as well as some trailers. Lastly, there is a commentary by Daniel Zirilli. Here's the only piece of worthwhile information Zirilli imparts: Maria Santos pulled a Melanie Griffith and had her chest surgically enhanced during production. (Yep, 88 minutes of talk and that is all I came away with. Yippee.)
After I finished watching Cross Bones, I loaned the disc to a friend of mine who refused to believe any movie could be this bad. Halfway through watching it he called me and said, "This is the worst piece of [expletive deleted] I've ever seen." There you have it.
You cannot begin to fathom how guilty this movie is.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Review content copyright © 2005 Mitchell Hattaway; Site design and review layout copyright © 2015 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.