Nora, an exchange student from Australia, is out photographing the fall splendor of rural North Carolina when she becomes lost. Then her car stalls. A mysterious woman, Effie, offers to help, so Nora follows her to a remote cabin. But there is no phone. Instead of calling for a two truck, Effie tells Nora stories about a blues musician turned moonshiner, but Effie's stories turn out to be more than simple folk tales. Written by
Writing a review of this film requires me to violate a fundamental principle of film criticism: never review a film in which you are involved. In this situation, I am a student at the university which produced this film. The University of North Carolina at Greensboro's Broadcasting department produced Bone Creek which was released by Carolina Collaborations. It is the third film released by that company which is an independent studio specializing in North Carolina university-produced films.
Bone Creek is a fantasy film adaptation of what appears to be a tall tale. The title references an actual place in North Carolina. The story involves a young female photographer creating a documentary about the end of the rural American south. The lady, Nora, meets with an older woman who takes her to an abandoned cabin. Nora asks the older woman, who reveals herself as Effie, a lifelong resident of the area, about the cabin. Effie admits that it was formerly owned by Avenel Cannon, an escaped convict turned moonshine runner and his uncle Israel. Avenel was a skilled guitar player but frequently hallucinated while he played. His uncle informs him that his hallucinations are actually witches disguised as various animals who are interested in his music. Israel then describes an elaborate process to capture a witch which his nephew applies. Avenel decides to catch a witch and kills Israel as part of the process. Avenel captures a beautiful young witch who must work for him until he decides to release her. Unfortunately for her, Avenel is killed before he can release her, so she remains trapped there until someone else removes Avenel's witch-retention housework.
I won't spoil the plot twist for you, but if you've heard a ghost story, then you already know it. However, the film ends with a highly symbolic sequence in which Israel tells Nora how he can use his new powers as a deceased man to create acclaim for her work. Nora responds nonchalantly and refuses his request and clicks her imaginary camera endlessly.
At first glance, Bone Creek appears as a fragmented low-budget piece with unconvincing special effects. Computer generated effects are primitive, like something from an early 80's movie. These instances stand out but are infrequent, mostly to display the witches' transformation segments. There are also flaws in the flow of the narrative. I admit that I found the numerous cutaway shots to North Carolina wildlife and vegetation out of place and several sequences too long. I also disliked the nearly constant folk music played during the first half, but I was very surprised with how well acted the movie is. Each actor is convincing in his or her role and appear experienced, particularly Uncle Israel. He is played by Lorenzo Meachum and brings an energetic role to the film in the same way Redd Foxx did for Sanford and Son.
When I was a child, I remember my elders discussing various local myths when I would visit. I never considered these stories of much intellectual interest until I begin reading magical realism novels. In both the stories and those novels, reality is the perception of the individual. Bone Creek is in the same category as those two. To Avenel, the animals listening to his work are aficionados of talented guitar playing, but to Israel they are witches in disguise. Nora thinks that the rural south is disappearing, while Effie is evidence of its continued existence. There is no established reality in Bone Creek, only the viewpoint of a character at a particular point in time. Smoke is often employed when scenes of this type are on screen.
While a wider theatrical release is unlikely, I'm hopeful that the film will be available on DVD. When I watched this movie as a special presentation at Carousel Theater, it was projected from a disc. Carolina Collaborations has its other two films for purchase on its website, which I encourage you to visit. I recommend a viewing to anyone familiar with magical realism or fond of folk tales. This is not a film I enjoyed watching but one I enjoy discussing now that I've seen it. *** out of *****
2 of 4 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?