Review by Jay Bowman
Bonejangles is a comedic horror movie that leans more on the former than the latter. But while the film’s main plot thread of two cowardly cops facing of with the titular supernatural serial killer has its funny moments, things go off the rails as an increasing number of story elements are haphazardly stacked on top of each other and things rush to a definitive non-ending.
Clocking in at just over an hour, the movie has to move at a quick clip to get everything in. The big bad Bonejangles is introduced in the opening scene carrying out a Troma-esque comedy kill. Cut to our heroes, Doug (Kelly Misek Jr.) and Randy (Jamie Scott Gordon), likable buddy cops who get the call to bring in the killer. It’s here where the big weakness of Bonejangles makes itself apparent: the plot is told through exposition dumps. We’re given the killer’s extensive background as Doug, Randy, and supporting characters are briefed. Bojangles, we’re told, has killed hundreds. Traditional weapons have no effect on him, allegedly due to voodoo, though he can be incapacitated with electric shocks.
On its own, this would make a good popcorn gross-out flick, and watching the clueless duo struggle to kill a seemingly immortal killer would lend itself to laughs. But then it’s suddenly a zombie movie: because Bonejangles is believed to be unkillable the police must transfer him to the town of Argento, where an insane asylum has offered to take him in. Coincidentally, Doug is from Argento and doesn’t want to go back. Also coincidentally, the dead rise from their graves in Argento on the night of April 18th every year and attack the living until dawn the next day. Wouldn’t you know it, the transfer takes place on that terrible date.
This could still make for an entertaining watch. With the van breaking down and Bonejangles escaping, Doug and Randy must fight for survival against two malevolent forces. But things get even more convoluted when it’s revealed (through exposition, natch) that the zombies are the result of a witch’s curse cast years prior. She has now assumed the form of a succubus and can only be killed by an equally powerful supernatural being, say, an immortal serial killer powered by voodoo. Oh, and everyone in town picked on Doug when he was younger and an old flame of his is getting married.
At times Bonejangles feels like it’s trying to be a slasher-film parody in the style of Friedberg and Seltzer, playing with the tropes of the genre in ways that work pretty well at times. But there’s a lack of consistent tone brought about by the rapidly evolving plot that pulls the punches on many of the jokes. The horror itself is sadly lacking. A handful of kills succeed in causing squirms, but as the number of threats increase it’s almost as though director Shaun O’Connel wanted to bring the violence down a few notches. The gore effects are never stellar but get laughably bad in the final act.
All of this said, the film does have standout strengths. It’s moments of parody are spot on, including an Ash Williams-like character who serves as the perpetual savior of Argento and arrogant foil to Doug. And as far as low budget movies go, it does an excellent job masking financial shortcomings, at least with sets and locations, going dark and gritty for some interior shots and getting away with zombie fog for exteriors in Argento. It never makes you forget its a small movie, but it doesn’t feel cheap throughout either.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the next direct-to-video sleeper hit. Some early press has referred to Bonejangles as the next iconic movie monster, which is odd considering he doesn’t get much screen time in the physical sense or in mention. It’s hard to get psyched for the final confrontation as a result. The plot doesn’t do much to grab your attention outside of some confusing moments (such as the ending, in which Doug blatantly states he doesn’t know what happened). The end result is a middling movie, not so bad as to be avoided but not so bad that it will be heralded as ironically good.