Movie Review: Horror reduced to “Ash and Bone”

The hallmarks of a D-movie are many, but often include the following.

They’re usually horror films. And there’re always a couple of horror “names” in the cast, people whose credits include low-to-no-budget slasher, spatter and “dead teenager” movie credibility.

In “Ash and Bone,” those include Jimmy Doom (“Blood Immortal”), Mel Novak (“Game of Death”) and Jamie Bernadette (TV’s “Midnight, Texas”).

Do they help win financing, get distribution (not in this case) or entice downloads? That’s the bet, anyway.

The dialogue’s littered with cliches and grammatical abominations. Lines like “You’re not from around here, are you?” are a given.

The plot is so old it qualifies for Social Security, the characters simple archetypes. Gun nuts? Cannibals? Corrupt sheriff? Insolent Goth Girl?

And occasionally you’ll see a shot, a scene composition so inept that a character sitting on a sofa looks like a head on a bearskin body, or a cop wears his sunglasses on top of his head so that we see the production lighting inside that bar.

These films have picked up a new nickname. Anytime the free-with-ads streamer “Tubi” is trending, you can bet some self-financed delusion where you can hear “Action!” in the incompetent editing, bad effects and idiotic makeup has just popped up there.

“Ash and Bone” isn’t on Tubi. Yet.

A father (director Harley Wallen) takes his new wife (Kaiti Wallen, ahem) and troubled daughter from an earlier marriage (Angelina Danielle Cama) from Detroit, where Goth girl Cassie was getting into trouble, to rural Hadley Lake, Michigan.

Things’ll be fine. Or things will be better. After she takes her earbuds out and listens to parent and other people instead of death metal. After Dad finally lays down the law. Until that day happens, she grabs the keys to Dad’s van and cruises for a bar, flashes a fake ID and asks the locals (Bernadette and Mason Heidger) where she might find “a haunted house.”

There aren’t any. But maybe the creepy McKinley place’ll do. It’s not haunted. When they break in, it’s obvious it’s not even empty. But that wall covered with missing persons fliers at the bar is thought to be connected to it.

“What is that SMELL?”

Maybe the video camera in that basement torture chamber they’ve stumbled into will state the obvious.

As “everybody knows” the owners and most suspect something awful going on, we don’t need to be told that “something’s up with this town and this family.” That “smell” might be corruption. Or it might just be what the title of this tale foretells — “Ash and Bone,” and maybe a little burnt flesh.

Even by the more forgiving standards of no-budget horror, this isn’t any good. There’s no pace. Scenes lie flat, not so much progressing as standing and waiting around to see if they ever end.

Getting your movie scripted, financed, cast, produced and finished is a series of small to major miracles any indie filmmaker can testify to. But some of them simply aren’t worth that herculean effort. Perhaps the most valuable talent any filmmaker can have is the ability to recognize that before that first casting call.

It’s a pity they don’t teach that in film school, or add that to any web page on “how to make a movie.” It’s not just about “Can we get this movie made?” It’s “Should we?”

Rating: unrated, graphic violence, teen drinking, profanity

Cast: Angelina Danielle Cama, Jamie Bernadette, Harley Wallen, Kaiti Wallen, Mason Heidger, Mel Novak, with Erika Hoveland and Jimmy Doom.

Credits: Directed by Harley Wallen, scripted by Bret Miller. A Cama Productions release.

Running time: 1:37


About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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