Thursday, January 10, 2008


Most DIY films make an early impression and spend the remainder of their running time living up--or down, as the case generally is--to it. Occasionally you'll luck out with something like Scott Phillips's THE STINK OF FLESH, which told you up front you were on to something different, but usually micro-budget films land with a resounding thud within the first few minutes and lie on the screen like a flattened raccoon on the highway (for an example, see roughly every third movie on this blog). BONE SICKNESS, a 2004 shot-on-video production from writer/director Brian Paulin, gets underway with such a thud, but eventually won me over by its gore-happy moxie. (Note: This is the first time I've ever used the word "moxie" in a review, or ever for that matter. Please don't let me use it again.)

The feeble-minded story revolves around a young man dying of an unspecified bone disease (Rich George, who barely acts like he's got a mild headache, much less a terminal illness). Thanks to a lack of insurance, his wife (Darya Zabinski) is forced to take unorthodox measures to help him, such as visiting her pal Paulin (looking more like a roadie for Foghat than the morgue attendant he's supposed to be) for one of his "cures." Paulin helpfully mashes up the bones of several corpses from the local cemetery for George to eat, yet everyone seems pretty surprised that not only does this not work, but it also turns George into a flesh-hungry zombie--or, in his words, a "fucking necro-junkie." (Okay, for the sake of your premise I'll go along with this, as I'm sure eating the long-buried remains of the dead will have adverse effects on a person, but how does this cause the other corpses in the cemetery to crawl out of the graves and wreak havoc?)

On pretty much every level BONE SICKNESS falls flat. Its first half is incredibly slow, and without any interesting characters (or convincing actors portraying them), ennui settles quickly over the proceedings, nearly begging for a little fast-forward manipulation. Towards the end, George has a brief soliloquy in which he talks about hearing the voices of his victims in his brain, and the overall horrid state of his corpse addiction; why not base a story around that, instead of tossing it into some throwaway dialogue and concentrating on a series of boring scenes that go nowhere? Once Paulin unleashes his zombies, he still has plenty of story problems on his hands, but those concerns are soon lost under a wave of red corn syrup. See, BONE SICKNESS gets gory at its midpoint, and by that I don't mean there's some blood and guts strewn about. Paulin embarks on a splattery game of one-upmanship with the likes of Romero, Fulci, and H.G. Lewis, and what he lacks in style he more than compensates for in quantity.

Things start getting good and wet with a zombie assault on a responding police squad. As I watched the carnage unfold, I began scribbling notes. "Zombie assault on cops is jam-packed with gore, but lacks rhythm and focus--where was this action in the first half?" sums up what I wrote, and it's true, but I soon set the notepad aside; the film progresses as such an audacious cavalcade of gore that I couldn't help but be won over. You want entrail-munching? You got it. Heads split in half, or split with various sharp instruments? Right here. In fact, I'd say it's a safe bet that Paulin--responsible for the majority of the special FX--put more thought and energy into the myriad ways the human body can be destroyed than giving his characters a genuine plot to muck through, but at least the effort he did put forth paid off in spades.

I will give Paulin props for adding a neat little twist near the end; I won't spoil it here, but I did like how he added some competition for the zombies. But one novel wrinkle in the overall texture of a movie doesn't negate its numerous flaws. After killing off his cast, Paulin lets his story continue into apocalypse mode as the rampaging dead overtake the townspeople in an epilogue that exists only to continue the relentless onslaught of gore. There is some impressive stuntwork (impressive by DIY standards) on display, and it's nice to see the Romero tribute extend to THE CRAZIES as well as the DEAD, but was the end-of-the-world finish really neccesary? I know, I know, by paying homage to the Italian zombie genre you pretty much have to, but it'd be nice to see a different ending now and then.

Bear in mind, this is still an ineptly-made film, but it stands out as one of the best bad movies of this project.

(Couldn't find the trailer, but some helpful wag on YouTube compiled some of the gore scenes, which I'm sure you'll enjoy more.)

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