I donít know if the melding of blaxploitation and horror can always create memorable genre entertainment, but as someone eagerly hoping for a DVD release of BLACULA and SCREAM, BLACULA, SCREAM!, I was more than ready to give director Ernest Dickersonís BONES ($25), a spin. While not completely successful, BONES is an interesting and stylish horror offering that is greatly influenced by the works of Italian auteurs, such as Mario Bava and Dario Argento. Dickerson uses ripe, over-saturated colors in the same fashion as Bava and Argento to create an otherworldly atmosphere of decay for BONES. I also have to give Dickerson the nod for the most imaginative use of maggots since SUSPIRIA.
The plot of BONES offers up the type of horror story that one would find contained in a classic EC comic of old- one involving greed, murder and revenge from beyond the grave. Back in 1979, Jimmy Bones was the flashy hoodlum that controlled every aspect of his local neighborhood and managed to keep it thrivingÖ that is, until he was murdered. Flash forward to present day, where we find the neighborhood another urban wasteland of drug dealers and shells of burnt out buildings. Even Jimmy Bonesí old crib is a ghostly ruin, that is, until a group savvy suburban youths decide to renovate it and turn it into a hip hop dance club. Of course, all the activity gives Jimmy Bonesí restless spirit the opportunity to reconstitute itself and set out on a supernatural course of revenge.
Rap artist Snoop Dogg cuts an ideal figure in the role of Jimmy Bones, looking totally at home in both his 70ís hoodlum fashions, as well as his black, beyond-the-grave western wear. Snoop Dogg also turns in a credible performance, which is bolstered by his innate physical appearance. Blaxploitation icon Pam Grier also does a fine job as Jimmy Bonesí love interest, still morning his loss, and yet fearing that his vengeful spirit will return. Grier also seems ageless in the role- still looking as beautiful now, as she did in her blaxploitation heyday. The cast of BONES also features Michael T. Weiss, Clifton Powell, Ricky Harris, Bianca Lawson, Khalil Kain, Merwin Mondesir, Sean Amsing, Katharine Isabelle and Ron Selmour.
New Line Home Entertainment has made BONES available on DVD in a 2.35:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. BONES features a typical New Line transfer- in other words, great looking. The image is crisp, clean and highly detailed. Colors tend to be incredibly vibrant and highly stylized. Intense hues are as flawlessly rendered as the filmís natural looking flesh tones. Blacks are rich and velvety; in addition contrast is wonderfully smooth and the image produces excellent shadow detail. For a dark film, BONES shows very little appreciable grain, and the element used for the transfer is free from blemishes. Dual layer authoring keeps digital compression artifacts well hidden.
For this release, BONES features excellent Dolby Digital EX and DTS ES soundtracks that have been mixed for the home theater environment. These 5.1/6.1 soundtracks are aggressively mixed, taking full advantage of the discrete properties of both formats. Sound effects are atmospheric, in addition to leaping out at the viewer to enhance the visual zingers. Sounds also pan smoothly around the entire soundstage, which capably uses the split surround channels. Dialogue is always pronounced (pardon the pun) and completely intelligible. The bass channel is deep and very solid, enhancing both the sound effects and the filmís music. Speaking of the music, both the filmís score and incidental music are reproduced with excellent fidelity and a genuine sense of presence. The difference between the Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks isnít huge, but the higher resolution of DTS does allow for slightly sweeter, richer sound. An English Dolby Surround track is also provided, in addition to English subtitles.
Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVDís interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental features of this Platinum Series release. Starting things off is a running audio commentary featuring director Ernest Dickerson, writer Adam Simon, and Snoop Dogg. Despite some gaps, the track is pretty informative, offering a goodly amount of production detail. The DVD also features two documentaries, Digging Up Bones and Urban Gothic: Bones And Its Influences. At almost twenty-five minutes, Digging Up Bones is pretty solid, offering one a look behind-the-scenes and includes interview footage with cast and crewmembers. Running nearly twenty minutes, Urban Gothic: Bones And Its Influences is something that should appeal to horror fans in general, since it offers a look at the horror cinema that directly influenced Ernest Dickersonís stylistic choices for BONES. 14 deleted/extended scenes are also provided on the DVD and they have been made available with the option of directorís commentary. Two versions of Snoop Doggís music video for the song Dogg Names Snoop are also included on the DVD. A theatrical trailer, production notes and cast & filmmaker biographies close out the video supplements. BONES is also DVD-ROM enabled, offering the filmís screenplay, original theatrical website and web links.
BONES may not be a perfect horror outing, but I like director Ernest Dickersonís sense of style and how the filmís scare factor marries itself to the blaxploitation genre. Also, let us not forget about the Pam Grier factorÖ Not only does New Lineís DVD edition of BONES look and sound fantastic, it also offers a solid supplemental section that makes it a disc that horror fans will want to check out.
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