Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy
By Steve Anderson
June 1st, 2008


Written by Mitch Wilson
Directed by Mitch Wilson
Starring Julin Jean, Tom Zembrod, Katie Bosacki
85 mins

A long time ago, I decided that never again would I watch another movie from either Brain Damage or Midnight Releasing. I'd had a bellyful of that ultra-low-budget schlock, and the last thing I was interested in was another course. Well, because I care so much about you, good readership, I have decided to go back on the recent release of Knucklebones, a game that promised both skulls and chainsaws, but instead delivered interesting ideas and slipshod execution.

Knucklebones follows a group of college kids who have gotten together, and of course, ended up raising a demon that's thirsty for their blood. Shockingly enough, this time around, it has nothing to do with a book or a haunted house or even a specific time of year. No, this time, the demon's called up on the strength of a game. A dice game. With dice made from human knucklebones--ooooh, so THAT'S where they got the title. Now, the collegiates need to survive a disaster in the making as a horror they can barely understand is out for them.

Interestingly, the game goes all the way back to at least Nazi Germany, where what I'm guessing were elements of the Wunderwaffe program--the last-ditch effort of Germany to win the war that was pretty much unwinnable at that point were working to create "miracle weapons" that often turned out to be more ludicrous than useful--were attempting to summon the Knucklebones demon themselves. This is a note in this project's favor; very little horror, science fiction, or even action deals with the Wunderwaffe, and I always thought that was a serious lapse.

The following few minutes don't help this movie's case much as it jumps around in time like a monkey in a meth lab. A thirty year jump here, a forty year jump there, and all within nine minutes of runtime. Most of the dialogue is delivered like it's spilling out of the mouths of badly-programmed androids; there's one really great example of piss-poor writing in here about 17 minutes in or so; I'd fill you in but it'd spoiler like nobody's business. Then it took another 20 minutes to even get to the part with the game, which frankly, is inexcusably long for a movie that's running just over 80 minutes.

Then the demon shows up, and it turns out he's a talkative sort. Who's been modeled on Freddy Krueger, but has some kind of speech impediment where all of his dialogue sounds like he's talking through a mouthful of chewed-up apple. It only gets weirder and more disjointed from there, especially when the coked-up metal scavengers show up looking for copper. Halfway through the movie and this thing's introducing new characters. It kills them off rather quickly--don't worry, they don't even vaguely count for much more than inflating a body count--up until the last few minutes. The last few minutes are about the only saving grace this movie's got, but even then, it still can't manage to get out of its own way.

The ending, and I give it all credit, features an exquisitely clever set of cheats. You'll have to see it to believe it, but I've never seen a demon defeated so readily with a funnel, a beer logo, and a dismembered hand. Bravo for that one. Of course, it follows it up promptly with a shocking revelation, and a logic hole so massive that the entire world no longer makes sense.

Special features included trailers for "She Who Must Burn" and "Dark Seduction." There's also a scene selection menu, and after that, nothing. I was really hoping for subtitles, but I should have known better.

All in all, Knucklebones features a few clever nods and a whole lot of catastrophe, making this one that's probably better left behind than nothing, and much better rented than bought.