Horror in the Aughts, Issue 2: The Legend of Jimmy BONES

[Editor’s Note: Our very own Eric Mayo came to me in December with an idea for a new series. While he plans to still chime in about video games from time to time (including our delayed best of 2023 series which will appear before the end of February), 2024 is the year in which he’ll be putting together some great pieces highlighting his favorite horror films from the first decade of our current century… or as many refer to it, “the Aughts”. Since this decade was also a very important one for my horror tastes and sensibilities, I will be joining him in this venture, highlighting some of my faves, as well. Each installment will be dubbed an “issue” in keeping with our early 2000s theme – think of it as our very own horror fanzine… something that punks, film nerds, and other weirdos like us will remember as a big part of the 90s and aughts. If you head over to the first issue, you can read Eric explaining the column’s inspiration himself – thepaintedman]

If there was ever a movie that was written off before it even had a chance to be seen, it would be this movie. A seemingly schlockly horror flick starring rap icon Snoop Dogg, most people and critics alike took one look at the poster for this film – a red silhouetted facial shot of Snoop with glowing yellow eyes – and immediately disregarded it as anything worth mentioning. I have to admit, I was one of these people back in 2001. I couldn’t see this flick being anything but a failed attempt at someone outside the acting space trying to break into Hollywood via the most accessible genre. I was doing something that I despite when people do today – gatekeep horror. “Snoop Dogg doesn’t care about horror, he is trying to make an extra buck”. The idiotic ramblings of an immature mind. Despite that, there was always the real chance the movie could be a gigantic misfire, as with any film that comes out regardless of who is involved. In the case of this movie, man was I completely and utterly wrong on my initial assumption. This movie fucking rules hard and no one can tell me otherwise. The film I speak of is 2001’s Bones, from director Ernest Dickerson (Demon Knight, Surviving the Game).

In one small neighborhood twenty years ago, one man was king and keeper of his people. That would be Jimmy Bones (Snoop Dogg), who controlled what took place in his little slice of heaven with care, garnering love from the people, not fear. He didn’t rule as a tyrant, but as a man of the people. He had a woman, Pearl (Pam Grier, stunning as ever), and he had a trusted right hand man, Jeremiah (Clifton Powell). One day, Jeremiah dreams of bigger things and tries to introduce crack cocaine business, in cooperation with local policeman Lupovich (Michael T. Powell). When Bones shuns this idea, he is betrayed by his closest people and gunned down in his own home. Now, Jimmy Bones roams the hallways of his dilapidated home, taking anyone who dares cross his path into death where he resides. When four young people buy the property at a deep discount with the intention on opening a nightclub, with help from Pearl’s daughter Cynthia (Bianca Lawson), old wounds begin to open and Jimmy Bones is about to make his triumphant return to the land of the living, to seek vengeance on those who wronged

Bones is simply a well made genre piece that has black creators front and center, collaborating to create the story of a man who was betrayed by the ones he trusted and now has vengeance coarsing through his veins. Director Ernest Dickerson is a visual marvel of a filmmaker. He has a distinct flair for what looks good in front of the camera – ex. the blood in the film recalls the orange hue of Hammer horror films – is evident early on, clearly pulling on his days as Spike Lee’s main DP for such films as Do The Right Thing, Jungle Fever and Mo’ Better Blues (as well as the criminally underrated Def by Temptation). The main location of Jimmy’s house is beautiful to look at, striking in design as its rectangular exterior gives the impression of a face looking over the rundown neighborhood around it. The camera zooms and speed-ups throughout the house in various sequences (hints of what would become a staple in the Saw franchise) lend a kinetic energy to the film, keeping the pace moving briskly. The lasting image I have retained from this movie, above all else, is the enormously large wall/room/pit of souls that comes back throughout the film. The dead covered in black ooze and latex as you can see them trying to peel away, reach out and break free is very evocative and leaves an indelible mark on the viewer. Even the multiple scenes of Bones moist corpse beginning to rebuild itself is cool and a slick nod to Frank’s resurrection scene in Hellraiser. To be honest, all the effects in Bones are pretty gnarly and cool for time time period….except for when they try to digitally turn a dog’s face into Snoop at one point (it looks bad, bad, bad). I also enjoyed the liberal use of real maggots during the nightclub opening sequence, a sequence washed in greens and reds and is a great setpiece for what preludes the final 30 minutes or so. When Jimmy finally resurrects and comes for all who betrayed him, it’s a fun fucking ride from there on out and satisfies on all fronts, with even a healthy dose of humor injected throughout. Snoop Doog is solid in the role of Jimmy Bones, completely believable in the role of a good natured protector of his neighborhood AND as the vengeful spectre that follows. Snoop also has a rendition of James Brown’s Payback on the soundtrack, and its rad as hell. The supporting cast pushes along the story nicely, even if some performances are one note. Pam Grier exhibits sorrow and regret as Pearl, feeling guilt for what happened to Jimmy but ultimately was not truly responsible. Bianca Lawson is one of the most pleasing humans one could ever hope to lay their eyes on, and her presence becomes more and more important (and relevant) as the movie progresses. Michael T. Weiss is just a gross nasty man of sleaze, and never lets off the gas from moment one. Khalil Kain, Merwin Mondesir and Sean Amsing bring eager energy as the three friends collaborating to open the nightclub, looking toward the future and ignoring the past that the building has sewn into it. We also get an early performance from Katherine Isabelle, but she barely registers so its essentially a non-role.

Bones is a great little horror flick directed by an amazing auteur that knows how to make a motion picture. As I have learned to do over the years, you need to give every movie a chance, never judging it prematurely based on casting, marketing, etc. Everyone is committed to their pefromances, the blood flows, the visuals don’t disappoint, and it all gets done in 95 minutes. Bones is worth your time and deserves to be seeked out. 

Eric Mayo
Horror Lover / Resident Evil Fanatic
While Evil Dead 2 is my first horror love, my cozy horror that I always return to is the Friday the 13th franchise, though I am known to thrown on Tremors or even Malignant at a moment’s notice for some good old absurd fun. However, first and foremost, my most loved piece of horror anything was, is and always will be the Resident Evil series. Wesker for life!
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