After three of its employees have been reported missing in the Southern African Namib desert, the Eland Mining exploration company mounts a search and rescue expedition, comprising more employees which team up with Dr. Zach Straker, who researches extreme survival systems. Amidst the moving sand dunes they find human bones with just some blood on it, and identify them to belong to two of the missing men; then these disappear again, and they observe a strange monster, which according to a native former herdsman is known by the local people as Esikhulu. It's able to (dis)appear, survive shotgun hits, fatally 'incorporate' human bodies -picking them off one by one- and make water turn acid... Written by
I expected very little going into this movie but came away feeling satisfied that I'd finally seen somebody do something different and new with the horror genre. If you're bored of slasher movies, torture porn, carbon copy creature features and the whole 'college kids spend the weekend in a cabin in the woods' rubbish that passes for a plot hook these days, The Bone Snatcher will give you a very pleasant surprise.
The acting isn't Oscar quality but it's really not half bad at all. The South African desert rats displayed a subtle Mad Max-ian quality, their rough and rugged nature neatly underlying a disconcerting sense of chaos and brutality that never quite rears its head but often threatens to do so. Other reviewers may see this as a wasted opportunity but I see it as crucial in juxtaposing the 'fish out of water' element of the main protagonist - the nice guy with whom we, the viewer, must relate if we're to give a damn what happens - compared with the environment, people and situations with which he is entirely unfamiliar. And that's before all the horror kicks in! This is, ultimately, a monster movie and there are a million of those. But Bone Snatcher takes an intelligent line, shuns the status quo and offers up something we can really get our teeth into. You'll be simultaneously convinced and disturbed, which is a great feeling for a true horror fan. As Doctor Zack Straker (the hugely watchable Scott Bairstow) asserts when faced with Karl's (Warrick Grear's) lack of reason: "there's method in this system". And though Straker never really engages scientific method, the line does throw a few hints the way of the viewer. And if brain cells are engaged (which, shock of shocks, they can be in this movie) the twist in the tale can be predicted.
Plot and monster aside, you'll also want to watch for the delicious Rachel Shelley, a British actress known more here in the UK for her modelling roles in advertisements than her filmography. But don't let that put you off. She's a decent actress and brings some aesthetic interest to this movie.
Negatives are obvious and should fall squarely on the shoulders of the director. The potentially incredible set location is squandered. Not once does the desert turn its murderous, bone-parching attention on our group of heroes. They always have plenty of supplies, lots of water, ample support from nearby bases. Where the film lacks severely is in its utter failure to mix the merciless horror of being stranded in the middle of a wasteland with no food, no water and no hope of rescue with the presence of a determined enemy.
But what there isn't is hard to miss if you're not concentrating too hard and what there is more than makes up for the missing aspects. Somewhere, in a parallel universe, somebody is enjoying the movie I know this could have been, but for us it is what it is. An enjoyable, entertaining and surprisingly clever creature feature that takes the genre and gives it a good hard shake.
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