Bone Eater (DVD)
Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Bruce Boxleitner, Clara Bryant, Michael Horse, Gil Gerard, Adoni Maropis, Jennifer Lee Wiggins, Walter Koenig, William Katt, Veronica Hamel
Directed by Bob Robertson (AKA Jim Wynorski)
Distributed by Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Let there be no doubt that the Bone Eater is one of the daffiest looking movie monsters to come along in recent memory. An unholy amalgamation of some evil renegade warriors inadvertently unearthed by a greedy land developer excavating sacred Indian land, this bony monstrosity looks like something the monster D'Compose would have conjured up on the late 1980's "Inhumanoids" cartoon. Although, given that it can conjure up an equally skeletal spectral horse composed of dust and bones, which it rides while Old Western movie musical riffs play on the soundtrack, perhaps the Bone Eater would have been more at home on the "Bravestarr" cartoon instead. The Bone Eater could very well be the goofiest looking movie monster meant to be taken seriously to come along since the demonic Porky Pig demon from Pinata: Survival Island.
This Bone Eater is pretty much a one-trick pony. Well, a three-trick pony to be more accurate. Merely being touched by it or its bone sword causes one to explode into a dust cloud much like when a vamp would get staked on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel". A green mist it spews - an amazing feat for something with no lungs - can also reduce one to nothingness. And then there's that phantom horse it conjures up (the "Bony Express" as I dubbed it) to gallop after those trying to flee on wheels. Problem is we get to see all three of these tricks within the first half hour and after that it’s just the same thing over and over. Not a whole lot of diversity in this creature's modus operandi.
The Bone Eater has a goal its looking to meet within a set timeframe, and though the film is only set over the course of two days, the monster's appearances felt almost completely random and the time span between appearances left me wondering what was this thing doing during its down time when it wasn't on the screen attacking people as required by the script.
And I must say that it is rather amazing how a CGI monster can move with all the jerkiness of an old fashioned stop-motion creation.
I just hope that neither director and co-writer Jim Wynorski (using one of his many aliases) nor anyone else involved with the making of the movie ever got it in their head that this monster would scare anyone except maybe the smallest of children. Its visual menace rarely rises above a Halloween decoration. Heck, given how bloodless the film is, Bone Eater is probably suitable viewing for children. As I watched characters scream in the presence of this cartoonish skeletal demon, I found myself wondering when the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers would show up.
Instead of a color-coded Power Ranger we get Bruce Boxleitner with a heavy base of red make-up on his face in order to try and pass him off as half-Indian. As people go missing and other workers begin refusing to work, in what I can only ascribe as being a textbook case of Sci-Fi Channel villainy, the devious land developer in charge of the project blames it all on protesters who have been picketing his desecration of their ancestors’ land. Boxleitner's sheriff, himself a half-breed Indian, a fact brought up so much that I can only assume it was lack of budget on Wynorski's part that prevented him from including Cher's song "Half Breed" on the soundtrack, finds himself caught between an age old land struggle between white and red skins.
Speaking of redskins, there's something quite ironic that out of the four major Native American characters in the film, the perpetually angry militant, the one who hates the white man so much and gives Boxleitner's character no shortage of grief over being half-white, the one who talks of wanting to try and control the Bone Eater in order to use it to take back all the land the white man stole from them, is himself the least Indian-looking of the bunch.
All the Native American characters are right out of the great big book of Indian archetypes: wise old Indian, pretty Indian girl, and the spiteful one with a serious dislike of both the white man and half breeds. None, however, are anywhere near as clichéd as the evil land developer who'll stop at nothing to make sure no one or no thing prevents his project from being completed.
When the greedy industrialist isn't scheming to cover up the Indian relics his digging has uncovered or screaming about how those savage protesters are trying to sabotage his project, when the Native American characters aren't talking all metaphysical as they're prone to do or that one is going off about how much he hates the white man, and when Bruce Boxleitner isn't being all Bruce Boxleitnery, this big bony beast runs amok randomly killing minor characters. The only thing that can stop it is some sacred bone axe and it must be stopped before the eclipse in two days or else. Can Bruce Boxleitner get in tune with his Indian half in time to save the day? What do you think?
I'd highly recommend Bone Eater to anyone ever looking to write a Sci-Fi Channel original movie since the story is a prime example of Sci-Fi Channel Screenwriting 101. From displaying the monster in the opening minutes to it randomly attacking with little rhyme or reason every few minutes to hitting all the story beats right on cue to the cavalcade of stock characters and situations typical of Sci-Fi films, it's practically a clinic in how to make and construct a Sci-Fi Channel original movie. I just wish they'd bother constructing better movies.
Bone Eater boasts one of the most senseless screenplays in quite some time. The story is overloaded with pointless characters, many of which don't really contribute much of anything to the outcome of the story. What's the point of giving Boxleitner's character a teenage daughter if she's never even put in danger? What's the point of including the pretty young Native American woman if she's neither put in peril or serves as someone's love interest? What's the point of casting a recognizable actor like Walter Koenig ("Star Trek"'s Chekov) in a "blink and you missed it" throwaway role as a scientist whose whole scene ultimately amounts to nothing substantial? Or for that matter, casting "Greatest American Hero" William Katt in a nothing role as a town doctor who appears for all of about 90-seconds?
For that matter, why bother with a subplot involving a slightly older boy Sheriff Boxleitner disapproves of his teenage daughter dating if the only payoff for the storyline is the guy providing Boxleitner with the bone axe that he just happened to find laying around. Wow, how utterly convenient! And he's never put into harm's way either, but I guess giving Boxleitner a lift and providing him with the weapon needed to kill the creature counts as his proving himself worthy of dating his daughter.
Aside from Boxleitner's character being caught being of mixed blood, absolutely nothing resembling character development ever occurs for any of the film's many characters. The majority doesn’t even have any story arcs; they're just there to fill space or die.
I can only speculate that the budget must have been all dried up by the time they got around to shooting the climax because the final showdown with the Bone Eater is a one-punch knockout. So quick and easy is the monster's demise that it bypasses being anti-climactic and moves right up to feeling cheated. I sat there thinking this couldn't possibly be all there was to it. And then the end credits started rolling. Insert groaning here.
After the shockingly entertaining (and still unavailable in the US) Cry of the Winged Serpent, Bone Eater is something of a step backward for Wynorski. You can tell he's trying to have some fun with all this yet the story he helped pen is so pointless and derivative that making a genuinely entertaining film out of it is damn near impossible. Still, I have to say Bone Eater went down easier than a lot of the Sci-Fi Channel original movies I've viewed in the past year (i.e. Bats: Human Harvest, anything starring Stephen Baldwin). The visual sight of the monster does give the film moments of wacky charm, but other than that Bone Eater kind of bites.
2 out of 5
1/2 out of 5
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