The Bone Snatcher Review
In fear of soon forgetting everything about this film and thus not being able to write about it I quickly set out to bring the reader this review.
Systems analyst, Dr. Zack Straker (Scott Bairstow) is ordered to travel from his home in Canada to an African mining camp for research. Meanwhile in the South African desert of Namib a group of geologists who have set out to locate a diamond mine suddenly go missing. Not long after meeting the camp members; Mikki (Rachel Shelley), Karl (Warrick Grier), Titus (Patrick Shai), Kurt (Andre Weidemen) and Magda (Adrienne Pearce) he and the team are sent out to find the missing group. Zack and company eventually find the stripped remains of the missing members but are shocked as to how quickly these bodies have been ravished in just six hours. A trail of foot prints starts them off on a search to discover who or what it is that is killing and eating the flesh of humans, before playing with their bones and running all over the desert with them.
So yea, that was all I could muster up for a synopsis, but don't despair as it isn't as entirely awful as it sounds...just a bit. This South African/UK/Canadian production inevitably brings together an ethnically diverse cast and puts them in the desert for some slightly average shenanigans. The main problem is that for a film listed in the horror genre it isn't scary in the slightest, barely offering anything more than a few shots of bare bones and some shots of bones with a bit of blood on them - oh and a head...and a leg.
With little in the way of violence, director Jason Wulfsohn works with his given script to try and bring a tense build up that does little to succeed, instead the main plot often takes a back seat and centres on our little group as they bicker with each other and churn out bad line after bad line, there's not even any memorable lines here worth savouring which is too bad as maybe a little comedy would have helped this out. It's when a film tries too hard to be anything clever that it can easily fall on its face and no amount of special effects and hard acting can save a film that struggles with a script that has more holes in it than a dart board.
It took two people to write the script - Malcolm Kohll and Gordon Render - and they must be fans of rubbish movies because they've taken all that is bad from mostly rubbish movies and placed them here. There's a healthy dose of clichéd plot turns and characters that unfortunately only seem to be here in order to flesh out a film that could just have well succeeded as a half hour episode on something like Tales From the Crypt.
Speaking for myself I know I wanted to see more in the way of the creature and some gore to make my time spent worthwhile. There is very little of either aspect here, but what there is of the violence is actually handled decently with the use of computer generated effects. I was impressed for the most part at how well the scenarios are played out, by no means are the special effects ultra amazing but believe me when I say that I've seen a lot worse from Hollywood efforts. As far as these effects go they are more than adequate and if anything I can praise the effects department for trying, given their miniscule budget.
Warning: The following portion contains spoilers.
The creature of course is what everyone wants to see and as far as expectations go it has its good and bad points. Technically it isn't too shabby and isn't onscreen for prolonged periods that would be enough for you to get tired of it. The downside is the whole anti-climactic revelation that the creature is just made up of ants who want to build a colony and for some reason steal bones so that they can walk around for survival - which makes so very little sense but that is just part of the many idiocies that lace the script.
The Bone Snatcher collects together a cast of South African, UK and Canadian actors of which I only recognised one face, that being Rachel Shelley who starred in the excellent Indian epic, Lagaan. Here she comes across as being a little more uncomfortable in her surroundings and fails to bring much conviction to many of her lines. Rachel tries hard given the material but she often looks tired and no one can blame her really, perhaps she knew how much of a dud she was going to end up with.
Canadian actor, Scott Bairstow doesn't make the finest lead but the lack of development for his character attributes to his lacklustre performance. The writers manage to confuse themselves as they try to give his character several sides, but end up contradicting his sensibilities from time to time and if that isn't enough they throw in a few more characters of little interest. Laughably the character of Titus gets about one minute of character development that isn't really development as such but merely a piece that has him try to explain the mystery of this bone thief. Karl is a typically big fellow who has a temper and is naturally a rival for Zack as they see who can win the affection of Mikki, in what is a tired love triangle that is hardly touched upon but thrown in for good measure to further drag out the plot that involves very little of anything else. Perhaps the best actor of the bunch is Andre Weideman, carrying a small role but delivering his lines more confidently than the rest and having a genuine good quality that should really see him go on to do greater things.
That just about leaves me to mention the cinematography. The film looks pleasing and Wulfsohn shoots the outdoor scenes with a good amount of flare, despite the fact that all he has to do is shoot in the desert. It's naturally white and spacious and doesn't require any dressing up and provides a good backdrop for the characters as they continue to get further lost during their search. For the night scenes he manages to create a suitable atmosphere that should provide an unsettling feeling. If you think of films like Pitch Black then here he attempts to do a similar thing by closing off the surrounding area and focusing on the lowly lit and tighter spots, even though the desert is all around it is only that particular place and moment that are important and creates a sense of uncertainty within the group.
Anchor Bay presents The Bone Snatcher on a good DVD that is unfortunately low on extras, despite most retailers claiming it has an audio commentary and talent files etc.
The film is presented anamorphically in a 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio. I'm not certain if this is the correct ratio due to several scenes being poorly framed. Often a character's head is cut off at the top or they do not appear fully in side shots. This aside the picture is sharp and vibrant and the desert colours are warm. Day time shots are very clear and offer little in the way of grain. Night time shots suffer more as the lighting is generally poorer but they maintain enough detail.
There is a choice of Dolby Digital 2.0, 5.1 and DTS.
The dialogue is clear and poses no difficulties; the sound effects are handled well and give the speakers a bit of a work out. There are many moments where not much use is made of the track as there is a lot of dialogue but overall it's good when it needs to be.
Anchor Bay have provided subtitles for the hard of hearing, which is welcome as always on any DVD.
An almost bare bones release, save for the original theatrical trailer, which I advise anyone to avoid before seeing the film because it gives away quite a few spoilers. The trailer is otherwise well put together and makes the film look ten times better than it actually is.
The Bone Snatcher is a cheesy little film that delivers a few good moments but could have been so much better. Don't expect to be scared or even thrilled, this feels like a television movie but one that is better than a host of other features out there. Still, there are better ways to enjoy yourself. Take it or leave it really.