Sunday, December 9, 2018

Bonehill Road (2017) review


Eli DeGeer (Emily Stevens), Ana Rojas Plumberg (Eden Stevens), Linnea Quigley (Suzy), Millie Milan (Tina), Dilynn Fawn Harvey (Lucy), Gary Kent (Rhett Tanner), Douglas Epps (Coen Anders)

Directed by Todd Sheets

The Short Version: If you're into terrible movies, and particularly terrible werewolf movies akin to 1995s THE HOWLING VII: NEW MOON RISING, then take a wrong turn down BONEHILL ROAD. Crowd funded and heavily hyped for its use of practical effects, signs lead you to think this is a Howling good time; only things quickly detour into Texas Chainsaw territory when the plot shifts to the home of a cannibalistic serial killer. Meanwhile, the werewolves--which is what the film is supposed to be about--infrequently bear their fangs and claws, but appear domesticated in their idleness; open doors by the handle and possess a curious inability to break through glass. Bad acting, bad gore effects, and bad camerawork await you on this dead end street. One decent acting role out of the bunch, a handful of eerie photographic shots and surprisingly efficient monster suits are the only positive aspects of this misanthropic Lycan-throw-up.

After escaping her abusive husband, Emily Stevens and her daughter run afoul of werewolves and a crazed man with a fondness for human flesh.

Like any other sub-genre, werewolf movies run the gamut in quality. You have classic examples like THE WOLF MAN (1941) and AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981); fun, inventive entries like PROJECT: METALBEAST (1995) and DOG SOLDIERS (2002); and then there's execrable were-shit like THE HOWLING VII: NEW MOON RISING (1995) and BONEHILL ROAD (2017)--a film heavily ballyhooed for its reliance on practical effects and receiving an enormous amount of unwarranted praise giving the impression it's the top of the crop when it has more in common with the bottom of the barrel.

Reviews for BONEHILL ROAD are overwhelmingly positive with some laughably placing it alongside real classics like AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON and THE HOWLING (both 1981); while others claim you're not a real fan of horror if you don't like this poorly made, gory gobbledygook. Reportedly winning at least one horror festival award for Best Feature, the mind boggles at how inadequate the competition must have been.

To put it both mildly and succinctly, BONEHILL ROAD is a boneheaded mess. Marketed as a werewolf movie, the hairy hominids are barely in the film at all. Lycanthropic cinema is cursed with a legion of flea-infested entries and BONEHILL ROAD runs ahead of the pack; a plotless, thoroughly awful movie that's mostly about a serial killer torturing captured women at a secluded house while the least motivated, uncharacteristically mannerly werewolves stand around outside waiting their cue to casually enter the domicile for dinner.

Within the first few painful minutes, director Todd Sheets dares you to turn his movie off after assailing viewers with some of the most atrocious acting you've seen in years along with a slew of plot holes and continuity errors; one such goof is that some people scratched or bitten by a werewolf turn while others never do. 

Ana Rojas Plumberg is the only actor who puts forth any effort. With only two credits thus far, hopefully she gets more work but in better movies. In this, her second role, her energy doesn't go unnoticed in a sea of lethargy that drowns everyone else. 

Even when actors are required to do little more than run, there's no conviction or sense of urgency. Nor is there much focus in the nonsensical script by director Todd Sheets, a veteran of SOV (Shot On Video) movies; those camcorder crapfests that clogged video store shelves in the 1980s with titles like SLEDGEHAMMER (1983), VIDEO VIOLENCE (1987), CRAZY FAT ETHEL 2 (1987), 555 (1988) and REDNECK ZOMBIES (1989).

The camerawork is likewise devoid of any quality. Aside from a few establishing shots (see above) that, while creating mood, evaporates it within seconds. The rest of the photography is sloppy--made up primarily of close-ups that renders the action nearly indecipherable. The extreme close-ups likewise wreck havoc with the already destitute gore effects.

The werewolves fare no better. The suits and masks are surprisingly effective although their potency is ruined by the indolence of the actors wearing them. They're mostly immobile--unable to catch victims that, if they were moving any slower they'd be going in reverse. These wolf men are possibly the most inert, lackadaisical ever captured on film. They open doors by their handles; can't break through glass; display virtually zero strength; and mostly stand around snarling for the camera till the boring siege on the house during the last 10 minutes.

If you haven't seen the 1980s most popular Scream Queen, Linnea Quigley (RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD; SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT) in a while, you can do so here for about five minutes. One of Coen's victims, she quickly comes to a bad end, spilling phony-looking viscera. Her character's corpse turns up later on sitting in a chair with the hole in her stomach seemingly having miraculously healed and nary a drop of blood on her.

Despite all the hype surrounding the wolf men, the bulk of the film is centered around the aforementioned Coen cannibal character and his handful of torture victims tied up throughout the house. The werewolves--who don't really do anything till the last ten minutes--feel like they've been tacked on. There's no explanation for their presence or even a reason for being in the movie. Nothing revelatory is done with Coen, either. If this was a movie with a sense of direction, Coen would turn out to be the leader of the wolf men or something else of consequence to tie the two plot points together.

Reportedly budgeted at approximately $15,000 (its indiegogo campaign is a little over $22,000), this crowdfunded project certainly wears its monetarily emaciated budget with pride. Reviewers raving about this being the best werewolf movie in years raises questions as to whether such praise was done via payoff or at gunpoint. To paraphrase, a number of these reviews are calling BONEHILL ROAD a "throwback to old-style werewolf films." Proclamations such as that are only half-right; most definitely "throw it back". And if you're going to bring back 80s horror, at least bring it back as a good movie.

This review is representative of the Wild Eye Releasing DVD. Extras: Behind the scenes; running time: 01:25:05
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