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Bone Daddy (1998)

After a credits sequence that duly imitates Se7en, this direct-to-video exercise in absurdity turns into a styleless rehash of the Italian gialli of the '70s. Dr William Palmer (Rutger Hauer), a medical examiner who has become a best-selling author of forensic mysteries, publishes a novel based on the unsolved case of a serial killer who enjoyed toying with the Chicago M.E. office by posting them bones cut out of his living victims. The publication of the novel brings the killer out of retirement to kidnap and dissect Palmer's agent, which prompts the author to team up with a lady cop (Barbara Williams) to crack the case, which is complicated by his own personal life, as he has to overcome the hostility of his son (Joseph Kell), who has also become a medical examiner, and the possibility that (as in his novel) the killer is also in the autopsy business.

It offers quite gruesome manipulations of the partially-boned victims and delivers a fair approximation of that dingy look favoured by '90s serial killer thrillers on film and television, but the cast sleepwalk through the draggy mystery, the surprise villain is laughably obvious, and the character complications are carved from arrant soap. It winds up with the son chained to a dissecting table in the killer's basement as the father, who has identified the murderer from distinctive post-mortem stitchwork, comes to the rescue, with the cop heroine getting in the way to be stabbed but also administering coup de grace gunshots that drop the villain into a flooded cellar full of the skulls of his earlier victims. Director Mario Azzopardi made a far more effective film about a horror writer whose work spills over into his real life, Deadline (1980, aka American Nightmare).

First published in this form here.

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