Reviewed by D.W. Bostaph
Starring Darya Zabinski, Ruby Larocca, Rich George, Brian Paulin, and Kevin Barbare
Directed by Brian Paulin
Distributed By Unearthed Films
So, I get this DVD entitled Bone Sickness, and on the front of the cover is a blurb from a familiar name: Uncle Creepy. We all know him, the tyrant ruler of Dread Central, power mad horror fan, and pop culture icon. Above this mortal god’s name is a single word:
Did I spell that right? I guess so. That’s what it says on the DVD box. After giving up on finding its meaning in the dictionary, I decided to just take that single-word quote as meaning that the film was fun. Looking at the hordes of undead on the box, I knew why Uncle Creepy had used such a positive moniker:
A little secret to all of you kids out there: Uncle Creepy likes zombies. Actually, he loves them — in the states where it is legal to do so. I swear that if he could shoot himself in the head and be guaranteed that in five to ten minutes he would rise up, all pasty and blue, with an insatiable hunger for the flesh of the living…
Well, just be happy he has as of yet been unable to find someone who can guarantee that entire scenario to him.
Back on subject, I am the polar opposite. I have had it with the tales and triumphs of the undead. I tire of needless, endless hordes of bad makeup, blood that comes in tempera colors, and oodles of bad, bad, bad, bad, bad camera work. It seems like every horror fanatic in existence gets the idea, at one point or another, to try to be a new Romero or Fulci. They gather up a bunch of their friends, get some store bought makeup applications, and go to work.
I have a problem with all of this. I will not just walk onto a construction site and start working the controls of the heavy machinery. Pulling levers, pushing buttons, and creating total havoc. This would be as dangerous and stupid a thing as a person could do. I am not trained in this. I do not know what I am doing. I could hurt someone.
I COULD KILL SOMEONE!
I feel the same way when it comes to “do-it-yourself” zombie films. With 97.3546% of d-i-y zombie fests being so bad they are possibly causing brain damage to those who are forced to watch them, there needs to be an immediate moratorium on all fan-made zombie films, or at least some sort of repercussions for those who make them. A fitting penalty served to the offender for insulting the genre may be a free copy of Strawberry Estates.
I was dreading having to watch Bone Sickness. The only hope for me came with the idea that maybe because he expressed such love for it in a single, indefinable word, our El Creepy Captain would horde this plight of the undead and want to cover it for himself.
Then I got the following email.
“Hey… You with the kids. I am STILL stuck in Haiti. Lousy blowfish! I demand that you review Bone Sickness. Don’t make me have to hurt you again. Love and smooches, U.C.”
So I was stuck. I had to cover the film. There was no way out. None of us want to incur the wrath of the Dread Central overlords. A few other Dread Central staffers did once, and now they cry during Zorro movies. I am not gonna find out why. Poor Foy.
I have to admit I was prejudiced against Bone Sickness. Nothing on the DVD box impressed me, but what was perplexing was the total package that Unearthed had done for it. Commentary, interviews, behind- the-scenes footage, outtakes; all of these things are standard for a DVD release, and a LOT of fan-made DVD’s carry them as well, but here we have Unearthed Films putting these extras on the disc. This was intriguing, as was Unearthed’s distribution to the film at all. Why were they so hopped up on it? Was there something special within the case?
I watched Bone Sickness in utter disbelief. Here was a film that could not be what it was purporting itself to be. Here was a film that had to be lying to us. There was no way this was a fan-made film by a first-time filmmaker who shot most of it in his house and garage. No fucking way.
Journalistic integrity keeps me bound to the truth, and with that I am happy to report that it is all true and that Bone Sickness is what each and every new zombie film fanatic with a camera should aim to create. The film is a wonderful mixture of homage, talent, and love. It is that middle word, talent, that a lot of people who try this sort of thing are missing, but not director Brian Paulin. This is a one-man-band-movie-making-dynamo. Not only did he star in, write, and direct Bone Sickness, but he also was responsible for the creation of the film’s special effects.
And they are special. Great gooey gobs of gore are thrown at the screen. Masses of worms are spewed and re-ingested, in one instance actually causing this reviewer to gag. A first for myself in a long, long time. This is not just a timid retread into the undead subgenre; this is a wrestling match in the middle of hell. I was in total awe.
Speaking of awe, mention must be given to the cast of the film. Where a lot of zombie pictures fall flat due to bad casting decisions, Paulin avoids this by using people who seem to get what he is doing. This is not the same clichéd mix of friends and family getting together to help Cousin Brian make a scary movie. These people deliver their goods with a fair amount of effort and respect. It may not be Academy Award fodder, but it is quite serviceable within Bone Sickness‘ framework.
I have to also mention the framework of a certain actress within the film. Darya Zabinski plays the lead female character, Kristen. She is effective and un-annoying, which sounds like a pretty meager judgment against her, but in light of the type of film that Bone Sickness is, she was wise to avoid those all too common pitfalls. She does a wonderful job and kept my attention in more ways than one. From the moment she entered the film, I was drawn to her more, um, ample features and realized that one of the bonuses of independent zombie movies was gratuitous nudity. Within 10 seconds of seeing Zabinski, I was begging for gratuity, lots and lots of it, and Paulin did not disappoint. For this, I thank him.
Beyond the blood and spectacular female flesh, Paulin has made a film that also encompasses more genre homages than any other film I have ever seen. Easily, one can spot nods at any of the Romero films, but then there are references to Fulci’s Zombie, City of the Living Dead, and The Beyond. A Carpenter’s The Thing reference is masterfully done, and I saw artistic hints spanning everything from The Crazies to Legend!
I have to mention the gore again here. I am just agog at the level of blood in the movie and the competency with which it is displayed. Thank the Elder Gods that the good folks at Unearthed Films got their bloody oven mitts on this film. They give it what it is due, and by doing so made me appreciate what Paulin and crew were able to accomplish all the greater.
Behind-the-scenes features are usually boring because they are the same stuff over and over. Especially for fans who know how the effects are done, it just gets muy tiresome, but not here. The footage of how Paulin and his crew were able to create sets in their garage, pull off stunts, and get the physical effects to play out are a textbook for anyone who plans to attempt the same thing. Make no mistake; this film may have a graveyard scene shot in a garage, but it doesn’t look like it. Paulin uses great angles, lighting, and effort to keep the scenes looking as good as they can. Sometimes impossibly so. As shocked as I was with the quality of the product, I was more amazed at its inception. I tip my hat to thee, Mr. Paulin.
A great addition to the Unearthed DVD is the “Scenes That Hurt” feature. This feature is the bastard child of indie filmmaking and MTV’s Jackass. The feature shows us how far the people in the film were willing to go to get the amazing stunt footage. Expect burns, slams, bumps, cuts, and a return to worm eating… Ugh.
If you are a zombie fan, if you are a Fulci/Romero/Carpenter fan, if you love gore, if you love independent film, if you love a great set of breasts… then you need to get this film. I will admit I was wrong. There does not need to be a moratorium on indie zombie films. There just needs to be more care taken with them, and Brian Paulin’s Bone Sickness is a guidebook to how it can be done — and done right. In an interview included on the DVD, our own beloved Creepy asks Brian a simple question:
“What the fuck is wrong with you?”
I believe the answer, for all of us genre fans, would be: Nothing. Not a damn thing.
Uncle Creepy interviews Brian Paulin
4 1/2 out of 5