Welcome to Cult Corner where we dive through the bargain bins to determine if a movie is trash or treasure. Today’s pick… Jim Wynorski’s Bone Eater.
These TV movies are going to kill me. Bone Eater is a film about an evil spirit going on a rampage after an ancient Indian holy ground is desecrated during the construction of a “swanky resort.” As the businessman from Hell tries to cover up that any artifacts have been discovered at the construction site and the local Native American tribe pickets to stop the resort from being built, the town sheriff looks into the recent rash of disappearances, soon coming head-to-head with the creature itself.
Bruce Boxleitner plays Sheriff Steve Evans, and this is his movie. He actively tries to find the cause of the disappearances, but very little evidence presents itself. When it becomes apparent that an evil spirit is the cause of everything going on, he begins to rediscover his Native American heritage that he had all but abandoned in recent years. He’s the only character with a real arc and he’s the best thing about the movie. The rest of the cast are generally acceptable, but feel kind of useless. There’s a subplot about the sheriff’s daughter, a past divorce, and his daughter’s older boyfriend that doesn’t really go anywhere. Michael Horse plays Chief Storm Cloud and he’s a relatively stereotypical Chief character. He’s there to deliver exposition and not be believed until it’s too late.
The structure of this film is kind of weird. It’s not slow exactly, but it doesn’t quite ramp up in terms of danger in any noticeable way. It just stays at this weird in-between pace. We spend a lot of time with the characters as they try to piece everything together, and once every ten to fifteen minutes or so, the Bone Eater shows up and kills a few people. We do get to see the creature quite a lot, but I kept waiting for a moment towards the back half where everything would change and it’d be nonstop danger until the end, but it never comes. The monster’s targets are really random. It just goes after whomever the movie feels like killing off. When the end comes and the sheriff has his showdown with the beast it ends in about five seconds. It’s really underwhelming.
The monster itself is kind of cool in spite of the absolutely atrocious CGI. It’s a big dumb goofy skeleton creature that looks like something out of an old sword and sorcery movie or maybe a Power Rangers episode. This thing is full of missed opportunities, though. First off, its victims all disintegrate into a dust cloud when it kills them. On the one hand, this ups the sense of danger since it basically just has to touch you to finish the job, but unfortunately it also means that there aren’t any interesting or bloody death scenes. However, had they played up the Bone Eater’s mystic powers a bit more and made the chases leading up to the deaths more creative this wouldn’t have been an issue. There are moments sprinkled throughout that lead me to believe they could have gone that route really successfully. The first time you see the monster summon a skeleton horse to chase down some bikers it’s really fun and different. The second and third times it summons the same horse it’s repetitive and stale. Hell, they could have even just mixed up the kinds of weapons it uses. For most of the movie it swings a bone sword, but once or twice it also has a pair of smaller bone daggers. If they had really taken the idea of it being able to use its bones for different purposes farther this could have been a pretty fun and creative film. What about it making a bone shield or an axe or a javelin? What about it splitting into two smaller versions of itself to chase two different people when they split up? There’s a lot they could have done.Jim Wynorski, a pretty prolific exploitation and b movie director whose most “famous” work is the 80’s cult classic, Chopping Mall.
Bone Eater is a missed opportunity. The characters are better than they usually are in this kind of movie and the monster is sort of interesting, but they should have been way more creative with what they had it do. As it stands the plot just sort of meanders around with the Bone Eater picking off random people. The sheriff has a real arc, but everyone else is kind of irrelevant. With a better ending and some more interesting moments throughout this could’ve been really entertaining, but as it stands I’d say it’s skippable.
Here at Cult Corner we cover the weird and obscure. Given the low budget that these movies often have we feel the need to recognize that entertainment value and quality aren’t always synonymous. That’s why we have opted for the “trash or treasure” approach in lieu of a typical rating system. After all, Troll 2 is incredibly entertaining but it’s no 8 out of 10.