Bones (2001)

A franchise wannabe horror, built around the semi-skeletal presence of rapper Snoop Dogg, who plays Jimmy Bones, a neighbourhood racketeer of the 1970s whose murder by a corrupt cop (Michael T. Weiss) and his own treacherous associates precipitates the decline of his friendly inner city ghetto into a crack-ridden wasteland. An odd effect of this plot device is to make you wonder what all those folks in 1970s blaxploitation pictures were complaining about if the ghettos were so all-fired safe and decent back then. Patrick (Khalil Kain), son of Bones's former lieutenant (Clifton Powell), returns from an upbringing of suburban privilege to buy up Bones's dilapidated mansion so he can convert it into a club. The dead man's angry spirit, sometimes manifested as an evil-eyed dog and sometimes as a Nosferatu-look shadow, stirs to give various guilty parties and their innocent teenage children nightmares in the Elm Street spirit. Eventually, as the dog eats a DJ during the club's opening (further inconvenienced by a rain of maggots poached from Suspiria), flesh returns to Bones's bones (an effect stolen from Hellraiser) and he strides through the night in his sharp 1970s threads to settle the scores with his old enemies (whose talking severed heads he carries around) until a big confrontation in the Fulci-like city of the dead beneath the house settles things until the sequel hook (which hasn't led to more Bones movies).

Dogg has real presence and the script gives his character ('black as night and hard as stones') some mythological weight in both blaxploitation and horror terms, but the Vancouver-shot production has little or no ghetto atmosphere. The supporting characters mostly register as disposable (Katharine Isabelle of Ginger Snaps is especially wasted), with the exception of an aptly-cast Pam Grier as Bones's one-time girlfriend who is now the local spouter of ominous warnings. Directed by Ernest Dickerson (Tales From the Crypt Presents Demon Knight) from a script by Adam Simon (Carnosaur) and Tim Metcalfe (Kalifornia).

First published in this form here.

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