The Bone Snatcher (2003) – By Timothy Martinez

 B-Movie cinema has seen just about every conceivable beast brought to life over the years, running the gamut from towering lizards that breathe fire to small obnoxious creatures that multiply when fed after midnight, to everything in between. Whether culled from classic literature, myths and legends from various cultures or just the fevered imaginations of the producers, these creatures have truly been a varied and interesting bunch, regardless of the fact that many have inspired more laughs than chills. At one point, filmmakers realized that new and unique movie monsters were becoming more and more rare, so they turned to Mother Nature for inspiration. Thus, the horde of “nature gone wild” flicks that began multiplying like mad, beginning in the early 1970’s. In this day and age it is a rare thing indeed to come across a film that features a unique monster. More often than not the audience is treated to a new spin on an old idea. Far too often it is a case of a very old spin on a very old idea. I suppose what I’m trying to say with all this is that going into The Bone Snatcher I was not really expecting to see anything new. And while now, after the fact, I definitely feel as if I really didn’t see anything new, at least I’ll acknowledge that the film’s makers tried to put a new spin on an old idea by merging the “nature gone wild” themes with a more traditional monster outing. What I’m still unsure about is whether or not they succeeded.

The film opens up in a desert. I’m not sure if it was explicitly stated, but this film seems to take place in an African desert. We see three guys in a vehicle cruising through the dunes when they come across an odd formation in the sand. Faster than you can say “cliché” they stop to check it out and are quickly attacked by whatever was residing within said sand formation. The film then introduces us to our main character, a Canadian scientist, who is dispatched by his boss to the desert to help in whatever problem they are having. The operation in the desert seems to be a mining operation, looking for diamonds and the film wastes no time in introducing all the people who will die in this film. To make a long story short, our Scientist joins a bunch of miners in a mission to locate the three men who went missing at the beginning of the film. This group contains all the stereotypes – the hot chick, the near-psycho guy, the tough chick, the token black guy, etc. They manage to find what is left of the three missing men and also manage (surprise surprise) to get stuck in the desert with the critter that those three stooges unwittingly unleashed.

So far we haven’t encountered anything that couldn’t be pasted together from parts of countless other movies. The characterizations are somewhat flat; the acting is wooden at times and frantic at others. The tension is somehow both understated and overstated than what one would expect from people finding themselves in this situation. All in all, a by the numbers affair. The only standout in this entire film is the titular beast…and boy, what a crazy critter it turns out to be.

It seems that what those three morons unleashed at the start of the film was a new type of ant. Yes, you heard me, ants. Like their Army Ant cousins, this breed excels at swarming over people and rapidly stripping the meat from their bones – reducing them to bloody skeletons. Whereas other ant breeds would then move on, these guys linger about…and we learn the meaning behind the film’s title. It seems these ants strip the flesh from people for a very specific reason: they want the bones underneath. What do they want them for you ask? Why, the same reason we want them…as a means of support. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, in the annals of movie monsters, this must be a first: ants that swarm over the stripped-down bones of their prey, then working in an amazing display of cooperation and unified effort, they pile atop those bones and get them to stand up and lurch around the desert in search of new victims. This is akin to thousands of New Yorkers swarming over the Stature of Liberty and then getting the old gal to jump down from her pedestal and wade across the Hudson to Manhattan.

The last half of the movie centers on the character’s efforts to evade the beast, with varying degrees of success. There is a lot of arguing, running around in the desert and cut-rate CGI work on hand before the survivors decide to go on the offensive. In other words, nothing that hasn’t been done a thousand times before. Some of the computer animation isn’t too bad, especially in shots that show old “Boney” stumbling around. In other places, like when we see a horde of ants swarming over the desert floor or some unlucky sod, the animation is much more crude and obvious. There is a wee bit of gore, but it is not overly done. The nature of the monster is somewhat interesting, and the film throws us a bone (pun intended) in the form of fat, bloated queen ant to help explain how these insects are pulling off this feat.

In the end, The Bone Snatcher is not an entire waste of time. Sure, there really isn’t anything new about the film and it is utterly predictable (right down to the denouement), but it does manage move along at a decent pace and does offer a decent-looking monster, even if the nature of the beast is somewhat silly. This is a good flick to watch when there is nothing else to view or you’re in the mood for a brainless monster romp. Go into it expecting a lot and you will be sorely disappointed. Go into it expecting little, and you will be slightly surprised.

Final Grade: 2.5 out of 5