Director Mitch Wilson makes his directorial debut with his film Knucklebones, which he also provided the screenplay for and worked very hard to create a new slasher monster to add to the ranks of the true icons (Jason and Freddy) of the genre, early on this killer achieves the mark with combination of these two vicious individuals. Wilson uses the traits of other slashers namely teenagers, drinking beer, visiting a forbidden location, and doing very unwise activities, all hallmarks of the subgenres, for this Midnight Releasing distribution flick with a runtime of 85-minutes though seems quicker than that.
Therefore, understanding the plot one likely thinks in a straightforward manner, will find themselves a tad off the mark, as Knucklebones, not quite human, rather a demon from hell, created and summoned with black magic and occult, through a dice game using bones of a man murdered 2,000 years earlier. Next leap to a Nazi scientist who tries summoning the demon for the Third Reich’s supernatural destructive force to crush their enemies, think Raiders of the Lost Ark, but on a far cheaper budget and fewer effects, and the result brings death to all. Then the film moves to a garment factory in Texas which did war profiteering by supplying the Third Reich with their uniforms, yet strangely set in the 1970s, unsure of the demand for the outfits, however an employee’s son plays the game and everyone the grounds dies, but him. The plot advances 40 years later, in an abandoned factory a forbidden urban legend haunt for locals seeking a place to party and take dares. Fret not; if the plot doesn’t connect all the dots, it all becomes unimportant, for this a slaughterfest movie is for splatterpunks. Now, enter our centralized characters with impulsive Neesa Avery (Julin) dumped by her ‘fiancé’ Ryan (Daniel Walker-Rice), attempts suicide and encountering a quick journey to Hell, complete with empty halls before resuscitated back to the land of the living. Neesa rejoins society quickly, perhaps not with a good enough medical plan, but given medication to help her condition. Her best friend Samantha (Katie Bosacki) feels hanging out drinking beer at the old factory fits the perfect recovery plan, along with Kia (Taylor Tippins) and two guys Travis (Justin Arnold), and Adam (Cameron Deane Stewart). After their journey to the location and drinking beers, discuss suicide, death, and then discovering the game of knucklebones, they play it, what could go wrong with this situation. Kia, assists in the birthing of “Knuckelbones” killer as the mayhem continues so the nutty decisions and the introduction of Choctaw Bill (Jason Duffy Klemm), the boy who unleashed the killer the first time, he is the Crazy Ralph of the film. Note, look for the homage to Hellraiser involving Neesa’s her little sister Shelby (Mary Catherine Wells), especially the trickery of light shining through the blinds just like the light through the walls and the music fits spot on for the scene.
The kills are inventive, fun, disgusting, and most importantly bloody, with creature killer using more one-liners than Freddy Krueger, some of them work others don’t, but strangely he stays with the times, knowing the modern terms. In addition, the brutalization of each savage kill, creates more sinister depth to the Knucklebones (Tom Zembrod, a rising talent in the horror genre), and plastering the area with many T&A covered sweat and blood. The lead killer machine, is much more that a guy in a mask, his hulking mass and special effects creation shows planning for the existence of this mad demon.
This is a low-budget production, that doesn’t believe it is, rather providing a bloodbath of a story with the violence of slitting throats, and bodies in half, losing male genitalia and supplying a close-up of the infamous scene in Cannibal Holocaust except in the horizontal manner (now envision that horror fanatics). The missteps came of some the one-dimensional acting, and the wooden performances, but not in the horror genre of small productions, and yet delivers the gore factors. Knucklebones includes too common clichés smearing bloody hand on the window guarantee to generate a laugh and the playing of the public domain film Night of the Living Dead (1968), unsure if filmmakers in general unaware that other films exist in this limbo for them to use.
Knucklebones might return in future production, the character enjoys the killing pleasure and one learns the control feature on him late in the film, but who seeks the disgusting the kills, any self deserving horror fan, which can overlook errors, confusing plots lines and likes the gory gruesome massacres.