As the titular villain, Snoop Dogg radiates pure menace in the final minutes of “Bones” while still managing to make his stylish-pimp threads seem oddly appropriate. His triangular face works even better in flashback sequences, where director Ernest Dickerson (“Juice,” though best known as Spike Lee”s cinematographer) spares no expense to showcase the colorful “70s ghetto. With kids skipping rope on sun-drenched orange sidewalks, the new Robin Hoods, the pimps and drug dealers, held court on the street. Dickerson”s 1979 both pays homage and winks at a world that ceased to exist when Isaac Hayes finally put his shirt back on.
Despite finding the near-perfect pitch between horror and camp (something horror films of late couldn”t find with a pair of binoculars), “Bones” marginally fails because it forces icon Snoop into the background and attempts to tell the story through a group of “nice kids.”
The four (inter-racial brothers-sister act Khalil Kain, Merwin Mondesir and Katherine Isabelle and friend Sean Amsing) slip away from their suburban utopia in order to open a nightclub on the wrong side of town. Circumstance and an obvious script land them at the long-abandoned home of Jimmy Bones (Dogg), a infamous runner of numbers from the “70s who truly cared about “his people” and may or may not be inhabiting the body of a demonic dog (get it?) adopted by Isabelle”s character.
Turns out Bones was done in by a competitor (Ricky Harris) and a corrupt white cop (Michael T. Weiss, “The Pretender”) because he refused to allow crack to be distributed in “his neighborhood.” With forced help from Bones bodyguard and loving girlfriend (Pam Grier, complete with Foxy Brown”s afro for the flashback scenes), Bone”s is buried in his own basement before the whole world magically morphs into the ghetto from “Boyz in the Hood.”
Dickerson hits every horror flick from the “70s and “80s as Bones begins to rejuvenate, “Hellraiser” style as he absorbs the blood of his (the dog”s) victims. Faces popping out of shadows were borrowed from “Halloween.” Bones himself (back from the dead, anyway) is Freddy Kruger”s urban Godson, a shape-shifting, snarling monster who is still dapper and humorous enough to work as a perverse anti-hero.
The blood runs so red that it”s nearly “Dawn of the Dead” orange, even when it bursts forth from a sliced pool-table. Two severed heads begin to crack wise, and the zombies from “An American Werewolf in London” spring to mind. Whether it”s homage or rip-off, is not entirely clear.
The youths are passable, but their time onscreen drags when nothing gory happens. Grier is an even bigger icon than Dogg, and her silly afro and even sillier modern-day dred-locks work because of who she is. She still overacts, but her presence adds authenticity to the flashback scenes.
Weiss is best know for playing a television good-guy, enjoys hamming it up as the paradigm crooked white cop. The actor spends a great deal of time in a fat suit, looking uncannily like character actor John Capodice. Harris plays a dirty pimp straight out of “Shaft,” and he looks appropriately decadent as he climbs off of his white “barbie doll” wearing her stockings and heels.
While there is a fair amount of gore in the film, it seems nearly subdued next to last week”s “From Hell.” Of note, though, is Dickerson”s vision of Hell, a wicked combination of James Joyce and Tim Burton, with faces and arms reaching out to pull characters named “Jay-Bird” and “Shotgun” into the dirty, cramped eternity.
Snoop out Super-flys Ron O”Neil, and while the film starts and stops, the rapper solidifies his icon status. The silly film is not particularly scary, but it is more than just a vessel to sell a (pretty good) soundtrack.