With most of the major networks abandoning Saturday night original programming the Sci-Fi has moved in with something many are calling their Saturday Night Specials. These are moves typically made for under $5 million, not a lot for any film budget, and shot in a matter of a few weeks. There are often not very good but they are something other that the endless stream of crime series reruns. The latest of these flicks to hit the DVD shelves is ‘Bone Eater’. Right up front it has to be said that this is not one of the better examples of this rapidly done flicks for the Sci-Fi channel. It is pure cheese and if Mystery Science Theater 3000 was still on the air it would certainly be a movie covered by Mike Nelson and his robot pals. Actually, you might consider getting a couple of six packs and some pizza, inviting your friends over and use this film for the home game version 0of MST3K. For those of us with a few more decades behind us another viewpoint is possible. When you think about it this film is no worse than some of the flicks we went to see at the theater on a Saturday afternoon. When I think back on those old science fiction flicks I can remember seeing a hand a stick pushing the rubber monster or the fishing line attached to the flying saucers. It didn’t matter back then because all we wanted was a little bit of entertainment; we weren’t into an analysis of the technical merits of the movie. In a consideration like this those technical elements have to be discussed but if you just want some good old fashion ‘B’ flick fun you just might be able to get into this one.
Directing and co-writing this flick is a man with a long history in cheesy movies, Jim Wynorski. He has done a number of these Saturday Night Specials including such lamentable epics as ‘Komodo vs. Cobra’, ‘Raptor’ and ‘A.I. Assault’. Much of his worked is credited through one of his nom de plumes such as ‘Harold Blueberry’. Typically these are the soft core faire usually shown on Cinemax late at night. You know you’ve seen more than a few. Wynorski typically tries to make these films into parodies of real films such as ‘Alabama Jones and the Busty Crusade’, ‘The Witches of Breastwick’ or his ‘Bare Wench Project’ series. Yes, many of these flicks are part of an ongoing series of movies. He knows his target audience extremely well. They are typically high school or college aged guys who most likely have some alcoholic or pharmacological enhancements in their systems while watching the movie. Wynorski frequently employs the age old formula for success in low budget flicks; if you run out of plot blow something up, rip a person to pieces or have an attractive young actress remove as much clothing as possible. He did have to pull back on the last one for his Sci-Fi channel work but his body of films speaks for themselves.
The special effects in this flick are lower in quality than that old fifties flick with the hand pushing the monster. Computers may have been able to get rid of the stick attached but does little here to make a believable, scary creature. This one, as you might guess from the title, is a bunch of animated bones. In the pantheon of movie monsters the skeleton is among the lowest rung of frightening. There are three main methods this pile of bones can use in dispatching its fleshy victims. First he has a sword made of bone. Since this was supposed to be a Native American creature perhaps a different weapon, one in more common use by that people, would have been a better choice. Next it has a greenish mist that it blows out. In both cases the human disappears in a puff of smoke. If the human tries to escape bony can summons up a ghostly bone horse. The ghost riders’ horses in the second Blues Brothers movie were done much better. Instead of spreading out the revelation of these aspects of the creature over the course of the film they are introduced far too early and reused all too often. This methodology of having the victims go up in a cloud of dust removes one of the main attractions of a flick of this kind; massive amounts of stage blood and guts. At least they should have let the creature pull out a few bones of the humans he is stalking. The humans don’t faire much better here either. The Native Americans are all stereotypes; the militant, the half white, the spiritual one and the wise old man. The sheriff is clueless and his daughter is just a night away from an unexpected pregnancy. You all know the story. An ancient Native American legend of a bone eater comes alive and wants to kill as many of the cast as possible before the end credits roll. It is up to a rag tag bunch of people who can’t get along to stop it.
The film opens at a construction site. The work crew is working at night most likely getting some good overtime. The steam shovel hits an obstruction, a pile of bones. In order to get some exposition in for the audience two of the men tell the third that the Native Americans have been protesting; complaining that the work project was disturbing their ancient burial grounds. A crude weapon was between the ribs of the skeleton and the foreman picks it from the grave. He then wants to take a pick ax to the remains to break them up but a strange sound interrupts them. As the men begin to destroy the bones the earth shakes them off their feet. Just as they decide it would be a good time to quit for the night the bones reassemble into the Bone Eater. After dissolving the men the creature walks off into the night. The next day the Sheriff Evens (Bruce Boxleitner) pulls up and greets his daughter Kelly (Clara Bryant). They tried to make Boxleitner look half Native American but it comes across as bad sunburn. He has not seen her in a while; she normally lives with her mother. When they get to town there is a small group of lackadaisical Native Americans picketing the developer building a fancy resort. In the office he finds out some men working on site overnight are missing. The man from the development company, Dick Krantz (Jim Storm) show up to the site to push; wondering why the job is behind. He is less concerned about the missing men then the time lost. Making Dick Hertz, I mean Krantz, even more upset is the discovery of more burial remains and artifacts. Meanwhile not far away a professor, Dr. Clayton Forrester (Tom Schmid) is leading a group of students on a dig to find artifacts. Just a little trivia here this was the same name for Gene Barry’s character in the 1953 ‘War of the Worlds’ and the evil scientist in MST3K. He notes that there is a solar eclipse coming in two days. Just as the students find some human remains old Bony shows up and puts an end to them. Things go on like this adding a few former television stars like Gil Gerard, Veronica Hamel, Walter Koenig and William Katt into the mix at one point or another.
While this is not the best example of the Sci-Fi Channel’s original program it is good for a laugh, even if they are not intended by the writer and director. It is released to DVD by Lion’s Gate. They have a lot of great titles out so don’t hold this against them.