Bonejangles (Movie Review)

Bonejangles (Movie Review)
7 10

PLOT: An unkillable slasher breaks loose in a town overrun by flesh-eating ghouls under the control of a succubus.

REVIEW: One of the major selling points for director Brett DeJager's slasher / zombie movie mash-up BONEJANGLES is the fact that Reggie Bannister is in the cast, but while the genre icon is featured heavily in the marketing materials, you shouldn't put this film on expecting to see much of him in it. If you've watched enough low budget independent productions of this sort, you know what to expect. Actors of Reggie Bannister's stature tend to have cameos rather than substantial supporting roles, and such is the case with the part Bannister plays in BONEJANGLES. He has one scene early on and pops up a couple more times over the course of the story, but you really don't see much more of him in the film than you get in the trailer.

Bannister's low amount of screen time is something horror fans and PHANTASM phans should be warned of up front to avoid disappointment. The overall film is so much fun, it would be a shame if viewers were to consider it a letdown because it doesn't deliver as much Reggie as they were hoping for. Anything could always benefit from having more Reggie Bannister in it, as he has a great screen presence, but here he uses that presence to make his character fun and memorable even though he's only around for a couple minutes.

Bannister makes his cameo as serial killer Edgar Friendly, a.k.a. the New Brunswick Ripper, who happens to be the father of the film's titular serial killer, Bonejangles, who is a mute, masked unkillable slasher of the Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers variety. Having a homicidal lunatic for a father certainly didn't do Edgar Jr. any favors, but you can't blame dear old dad for all of Bonejangles' peculiarities. Legend has it that his mom was a voodoo priestess, and she gave him the dark supernatural powers that have kept him going, racking up over a hundred kills over the years while surviving being shot, stabbed, burned, drowned, doused with toxic waste, and frozen. 

That list of the attempts that have been made on Bonejangles' life brings to mind the injuries Jason Voorhees has sustained, and the influence of Jason on the character comes through in the film. You get the feeling that screenwriter Keith Melcher (who also plays Bonejangles) came up with the idea for this movie by imagining what might happen if Jason were dropped into the middle of a zombie outbreak.

Oh yes, there are zombies. Bonejangles can't be killed, but he can be incapacitated by electricity, so after being tazed into submission he's given a sedative through an IV drip (shades of JASON X and FREDDY VS. JASON here) and tossed into a van to be transferred to Smith's Grove Sanitarium (hello, HALLOWEEN reference), a route that will take him through the small town of Argento (!) City. Unfortunately, this transfer is taking place on April 18th, which happens to be the date when the dead rise in Argento every year.

The people of Argento have been dealing with this zombie issue for a long time, the curse was put on their town by the succubus Rowena Abernathy (Elissa Dowling) way back in 1872, and all they have to do to survive the night is gather together in the local rec center. But they never counted on a slasher getting loose in the town on zombie night.

The police officers overseeing Bonejangles' transfer are Hannah Richter as busty nymphomaniac Lisa Gutierrez and Kelly Misek Jr. and Jamie Scott Gordon as Doug Partridge and Randy Myers, a bumbling and cowardly pair who are sort of like a live action Scooby and Shaggy, if Scooby and Shaggy were cops. And Scooby were a human. It's really no surprise that this trio manages to screw things up and lose track of Bonejangles, allowing for the deaths of a lot of Argento townspeople, but it's not entirely their fault. The zombies cause the van to crash. Of course, being an Argento native, Doug could have warned his fellow officers about the whole zombie thing...

But BONEJANGLES isn't about rationally thinking, responsible characters. This is a goofball, off-the-wall comedy that is aiming to make viewers laugh and cheer, and maybe even say "Oh shit!" with a big grin on your face - like when it cuts directly from Bonejangles escaping out the back of the transfer van to a shot of some campers sitting around a campfire in the nearby woods. Of course this Jason-inspired slasher needs to hack his way through some campers on his way to the heart of zombie town.

This is a film that plays on your knowledge of the horror genre quite often, from that cutaway to campers to all of the movie references. The franchise that may get the most nods is the EVIL DEAD series, with talk of rapey trees, quoting of the ARMY OF DARKNESS tagline, a use of a chainsaw, and the inclusion of a character who isn't that far off from being Ash, but isn't as likeable as Ash because he isn't our hero this time, he's our hero's romantic rival.

BONEJANGLES is a very enjoyable throwback overall, but its reverence for films of decades past may go too far for some viewers in one instance. There is a character in here who some may find offensive, and I have to assume that he's just part of the nods to the '80s, because he is the most flamboyantly gay black man to reach the screen since Lamar in REVENGE OF THE NERDS and Hollywood in MANNEQUIN. The character is Juan Larumba, played by Lawrence Wayne Curry, and he's the driver of the transfer van. He is so over-the-top that he's like a living cartoon - this is a guy who will gleefully follow a trail of Twinkies that have been left in the dirt, gathering these "Twinkles" up until he has stumbled into the middle of a trap set by a couple redneck rapists straight out of DELIVERANCE. And he's happy to be trapped. The writing and portrayal of Juan is highly questionable.

The sexual situation Juan finds himself in is just one example of the fact that BONEJANGLES is rather pre-occupied with sex overall. There's a lot of sexual subject matter in there - gay threesome sex, nympho sex, a groom sneaking off to have sex with a stranger 30 minutes before his wedding, campers having sex, virgins wanting sex, succubus sex, etc. Traditionally, slashers punish the fornicators, and the way DeJager and Melcher use that trope within their story is actually pretty clever. Eventually we see that there was a reason for all of the sex talk and sex having.

Its comedy won't be to the taste of everyone, but if you're a fan of slashers and the movies that BONEJANGLES references I would recommend checking it out. At just 78 minutes long (including more than five minutes of end credits), the movie flies by, and there is a lot of entertainment packed into that short running time.

Extra Tidbit: Wild Eye Releasing is giving BONEJANGLES a VOD release on July 18th.



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