DreadWorld Review: 'Knucklebones' (2016)

When our good friends at Brain Damage Films dropped their latest release, Knucklebones, in our inbox earlier this week we were convinced it was a feature length video for the awesome David Lee Roth song of the same name. "So we're hitting the road and we're pumpin' thunder, mama look out for down below. Get your show on the road it's a really no wonder, you can feel it right down to your Knucklebones." Alas, Mitch Wilson's film has nothing to do with lead track off  'Skyscraper'...but somewhere in our demented little minds we are going to assume that Wilson did nothing but listen to that song while writing the screenplay. We look forward to the sequel: "Just Like Paradise."

Knucklebones may have nothing to do with David Lee Roth, but what it does have to do with is much more sinister, bloody, and with ample amounts of bouncy boobness. A black and white old-timey scene tells us the Nazis were working on resurrecting some ancient evil, and in true Nazi fashion they fucked it up and a shitload of Nazi's were killed. In modern times, Neesa's (Julin Jean) boyfriend dumps her after giving her an impossibly large stuffed elephant. She consoles herself by destroying said elephant and slitting her wrists. Saved by someone I think is her older sister, Neesa is hospitalized where she begins to have creepy visions. Upon returning home, Neesa's friends decide the perfect thing to do with someone who just barely survived a suicide attempt is to take her to a haunted factory and summon spirits. It's not too long before they discover the ancient evil that resides there (hint: it's the Nazi one) and Neesa and her friends must battle sadistic killer "Knucklebones" for their lives.

The shining star of Knucklebones are it's effects. Made for a rather large budget for an indie feature ($500,000) writer/director Wilson puts it all up on the screen. The kills are inventive, fun, disgusting, and most importantly bloody. Wilson knows that you come to see a film like Knucklebones for the kills so the kills are the centerpiece and rightfully the highlight of the film. As a creature, "Knucklebones" is head and shoulders above most of his "guy in a shitty mask" counterparts. This a film that had an actual effects budget and used it very, very well.

That doesn't mean the rest of the film is shit. The basic premise: "Stupid kids resurrect ancient evil and pay the price" is one we've all seen a million times before, but Wilson's execution of the tired trope gives it a little more life than some of the similar paint by numbers films out there. The layering in of Neesa's mental state is a bit heavy for a film like this, and is used a plot point only when convenient, disappearing when it wasn't needed. That little nitpick aside, the film keeps it's sense of humor throughout, never really stepping out of the box it knows it belongs in.

It's not all wine and roses for Knucklebones though. As with most independent features, the acting is very it and miss. We are not the type of assholes to call out individual performances, but let's just say certain folks whose business cards probably say "model/actor" should focus more on the former and kind of forget about the latter. That being said, Julin Jean's performance is certainly good enough to carry a film of this ilk.

The other thing we really had a had time wrapping our little minds around was all the humorous "quipping" coming from the Kuncklebones creature himself. Maybe my knowledge of ancient Sumeria is a little lacking, but I didn't think they were the originators of "snark" or maybe they just skipped that part of AP Word History in high school. Either way, Knucklebones is a very vocal ancient demon. We're talking Nightmare 5 Freddy Kreuger levels of chattiness. As more of a a fan of the silent stalk and slash, I found it distracting and took some gravitas, some heft, away from what should have been some dark death scenes. Then again, this is a film where a guy gets his dick chopped off post-coitus (with a close-up of the appendage to boot) and a girl get killed by shoving a pipe through either her ass or her vagina and out her mouth (no close up there), so heaviness isn't what Knucklebones is about.

Knucklebones is a film that knows its audience and when it finally settles into that pocket, it mostly delivers. There are a few missteps here and there, the acting is spotty at best and the humor can be hit and miss, But latter is more of a preference deal. If you are looking for a tight little horror film with some pretty cool kills, some boobage, and very small amounts of thinking, Knucklebones is probably right up your alley. The film will be screening at Frightfest in London on Saturday August the 27th, on Discovery Screen 1. So if you have an hour and a half or so free, check it out and support independent horror. The film is nothing is not pretty fun.

*** Stars out of *****

That's it for me. As always: Thanks for reading and "Enjoy every sandwich."

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