Wes Craven’s late 90s film Scream put horror back in vogue. Unlike the 80s schlock crop, celebrities lined up to star in 90s slashers like I Know What You Did Last Summer or The Faculty. Snoop Dogg had made plenty of appearances on the big screen, from Training Day to Half-Baked, but he didn’t have any first-billings. Bones was an early 2000s horror where he put down the joint long enough to pick up a machete.
“It was about time for me to get into the movie world,” he told human serviette Nardwuar in an on-set interview.
While the script was created for a Snoop Dogg, Bones wasn’t a total write-off. It was directed by Ernest Dickerson, Spike Lee’s longtime cinematographer and director of Juice and the cult film Demon Knight, a horror gem that acts as a four-part essay about how Billy Zane deserved more work. Dickerson would also go on to direct many episodes of The Wire.
Most critics panned Bones, except for the New York Times, who liked Dickerson’s grotesque and thrilling imagery. Especially the netherworld, a writhing, oily wall of human torture. Influence seemed to come from Hellraiser as much as blaxploitation horrors like Scream Blacula Scream and J.D.’s Revenge. It even has Pam Grier in a supporting role as a psychic. All that said, even if this is a Bush-era horror film where a character says ‘post-racial,’ make no bones about it. This is a dumb, dumb movie.
Bones follows a group of young entrepreneurs, siblings (including Juice’s Khalil Kain and Ginger Snaps’ Katharine Isabelle). Purchasing an old dilapidated house on the rough side of the tracks, they aim to turn it into a nightclub. Little do they know that the house was the once-residence and current crypt of Jimmy Bones, 70s hustler and neighborhood defender who mysteriously vanished. Bones was filmed in Vancouver, and in reality, the spooky narrow red brick was an old cheese factory.
While Jimmy Bones’ corpse rests, the premises are still guarded by a demonic doggie dog who eats meat to feed its master. That meat can come from hamburgers or human flesh. The clueless kids adopt the dog thinking it nothing more than a lost pooch. This was their key mistake, believing they lived in a world that doesn’t have monster dogs who eat people.
They discover the corpse of Jimmy Bones with a ring on his finger and a switchblade spiked in his chest. They recall a schoolyard song that is essentially a rewrite of Krueger’s ‘one-two he’s coming for you’ with lines about ice and nicer suits. They decide to keep the body a secret as not to discredit their business venture.
The club opens, ‘Illbient,’ a portmanteau that somehow feels like it’s using the ‘nauseous’ connotation of ill more than the slang one. This party from hell is like a nightmare version of the Who Am I? video. The horniest DJ is lured away by a mysterious woman who transforms into the demon dog, devouring him like so many nice sofas. Now full of meat, Bones awakens, filling the club with fire and maggots.
Cordell Broadus, Snoop Dogg’s son, said that the maggots scared him the most. “Every time I get a cup, I look into and make sure there are no maggots or anything,” said Broadus. “I’m traumatized from this day on.”
And there are plenty maggots. They fall from the ceiling. They writhe across the dance floor. The dog blasts maggots at people like a firehose. The last thing you see in this movie is maggots. There’s even a record scratch gag with maggots.
After the club burns, Pearl (Grier) reveals the truth. Bones was betrayed. A cop and a drug pusher pressured everyone to allow crack into the neighborhood. Drawing a line, Bones refused to allow crack on his streets, but the dealers weren’t taking no for an answer. They force Bones to take a hit from the pipe, putting him in a dazed panic and a shootout ensues. To spread incrimination, the cop forces Bones’ own friends to stab him with the switchblade. The kids realize this includes their own father.
Snoop clearly wanted to play both the superhero and the Dracula. He’s both a phantom on a killing spree, and a vigilante offing crack dealers. It’s as if Death Wish starred Jason Voorhees. The 70s scenes could easily be from a different movie. When he’s resurrected, Bones looks more like The Undertaker than his own flashbacks.
In hell, you encounter Bones’ true form: A Snoop Dogg who’s aged badly. Despite all the autotuning in his career, Snoop seemed to forgo any voice filter as a demon. He just snarls a monster voice like he’s reading his kids a bedtime story about dragons.
On the one hand, Bones is ultimately undone because it’s a decent movie wrapped around Snoop Dogg, who is impossible to find as scary as Chucky or Leatherface. On the other hand, had Snoop Dogg not starred in Bones, why would you watch it? If the novelty of seeing Snoop Dogg crack “I get a supernatural high” before slaughtering two guys doesn’t appeal to you, just watch Demon Knight this Halloween. It rules.