Tag Archives: b-movie

Larry Cohen Collection: “Bone”

Bone

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Today’s entry into the Larry Cohen Collection is Bone, his controversial directorial debut.

Bone is a tense and darkly humorous home invasion thriller that presents the story of a robbery that goes rapidly awry, and circuitously winds up unraveling the lives of all of the parties involved.

Bone was written, directed, and produced by Larry Cohen as his first feature film, after a notable career as a television writer. It laid the foundations for a long tenure in front of the camera that bounced between genres, and garnered Cohen a significant cult following.

The movie was co-edited and shot by George Folsey, Jr. (Hostel, Black Caesar, The Blues Brothers), with Michael Corey (God Told Me To) acting as his co-editor.

Aside from Larry Cohen, the producers for Bone included his then-wife Janelle Webb (A Return To Salem’s Lot, The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover) and Peter Sabiston (It’s Alive, Hell Up In Harlem, Black Caesar).

The score to Bone was composed by Gil Melle, who also provided the music for movies like The Andromeda Strain and Killdozer.

A number of the effects in the movie were provided by eventual Academy Award winner and master of the field Rick Baker, who worked on a number of Cohen’s films early in his career.

The relatively small cast of Bone includes a young Yaphet Kotto (Alien, Live And Let Die, The Running Man), Andrew Duggan (A Return To Salem’s Lot), Jeannie Berlin (Inherent Vice, The Heartbreak Kid), and Joyce Van Patten (Grown Ups, Marley & Me, The Bad News Bears).

Bone proved to be a difficult movie to market, thanks to a combination of controversial themes and pitch-black humor. As a result, it received a handful of alternate titles, though the most ofen seen one is Housewife.

Bone was shot almost entirely in Larry Cohen’s own house and property, and even features his dog.

While Bone certainly has a positive cult reputation, its reviews on the whole are mixed. It currently holds a user rating of 6.8 on IMDb, along with Rotten Tomatoes scores of 67% from critics and 75% from audiences.

Personally, I see Bone as a bold work of a young director with an interesting vision. It is certainly unpolished and the product of a developing talent, but there are some flashes of really fantastic film-making here, particularly whenever a scene calls for a building of tension. Not only do the shots help build a simultaneous sense of uncomfortable distance and dangerously close proximity between the characters, but Cohen was able to get some really outstandingly emotional and creepy performances out of all four of the primary characters.

Oddly, the writing is really the weakest aspect of the movie. At first, the film has a clear clock on it to build the tension, but then it is dismissed outright. Honestly, I was a bit confused as to how much time was passing between scenes, and eventually the screenplay just drops the point altogether. Once that happens, the pacing of the movie gets kind of strange, and the last act makes for an odd sort of chase and rapid resolution. Looking back on it, I think this was a screenplay that Cohen wasn’t quite sure how to end, and it shows.

As far as a recommendation goes, Bone was definitely made for another time, which plays out as a positive and a negative. The movie provides a visual snapshot of Los Angeles at the time that is pretty cool to look at, but the political and social context behind this movie isn’t nearly as potent now. The humor is also sporadic and uneven, and it isn’t always clear what the message of the movie is. Regardless, as a exercise in building tension, there are some big positives to Bone. On top of that, one scene in particular features some of the earliest makeup work by Rick Baker, which adds a cool trivia bonus to the flick. Cohen fans at the least should check this one out, if you happen to be able to find a copy.

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Shocker

Shocker

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Today’s feature is one of the popularly-regarded missteps in the storied career of the late Wes Craven: 1989’s Shocker.

Shocker was written, directed, and produced by the late Wes Craven, who was famously behind movies like Scream, The Last House On The Left, A Nightmare On Elm Street, and The Hills Have Eyes.

The cinematographer for the film was Jacques Haitkin, who is best known for shooting such horror features as Wishmaster, Maniac Cop 3, Evolver, The Ambulance, A Nightmare On Elm Street, and Galaxy of Terror. The editor for Shocker was Andy Blumenthal, who also cut the films Waiting…, Waiting For Guffman, and Five Corners.

The team of makeup effects artists for Shocker included Lance Anderson (Wild Wild West, The Thing, The Island of Doctor Moreau), David LeRoy Anderson (Spawn, Waterworld), Suzanne Sanders (Surf Ninjas, Critters 3, Critters 4), A.J. Workman (Communion, Arena), Roger McCoin (Darkman, The Garbage Pail Kids Movie), Dan Frye (Creepshow 2, Shaun of the Dead), Jeffrey S. Farley (Evil Bong, Wolf, Carnosaur, Arena, Kingdom of the Spiders), Scott Coulter (Garbage Pail Kids Movie, The Mangler, Arena, It’s Alive), and David Atherton (Face/Off, Maniac Cop).

The special effects team for Shocker was made up of Robert Phillips (Volcano, Maniac Cop 3), David L. Hewitt (It’s Alive III, Willow), Joe Heffernan (The Ladykillers, Waterworld), Christopher Gilman (Watchmen, The Blob), and Larry Fioritto (Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, The Prophecy),

The visual effects work for the film was done in part by Alan Barnett (Spawn, Volcano), Roger Dorney (Spaceballs, Ghost Dad), Jeffrey A. Okun (Red Planet, Deep Blue Sea, Suburban Commando), Allen Blaisdell (Theodore Rex, Red Planet), Joshua Cushner (Critters, Ghosts of Mars), and Samuel Recinos (Masters of the Universe, Big Trouble In Little China).

shocker4Outside of Wes Craven, the producers on Shocker included Shep Gordon (Cool As Ice, They Live), Peter Foster (The People Under The Stairs), Marianne Maddalena (Red Eye, Dracula 2000), and Robert Engelman (Foodfight, Mortal Kombat).

The music for Shocker was provided by the combination of rock star Alice Cooper, band-mate Michael Owen Bruce, and William Goldstein (Fame).

The cast for Shocker included Peter Berg (Collateral, Corky Romano, Going Overboard), Mitch Pileggi (The X-Files, Sons of Anarchy, Supernatural), Michael Murphy (White House Down, Nashville), Sam Scarber (Over The Top), and Ted Raimi (The Midnight Meat Train, Intruder).

Reportedly, it took Shocker 13 submissions to the MPAA rating board, each with new cuts, in order to get an ‘R’ rating instead of an ‘X’, which would have made wide distribution to theaters nearly impossible.

shocker3Shocker was designed to be the beginning of a franchise, but it didn’t ultimately make enough money to justify further installments. That said, it was a profitable feature: in total, it grossed roughly $16.6 million in its domestic theatrical release, on a budget of $5 million.

Despite the positive gross, the film was poorly received by both critics and audiences: it currently holds a 5.4 rating on IMDb, alongside Rotten Tomatoes scores of 12% from critics and 30% from audiences.

The first thing that is painfully evident watching Shocker today is that the visual effects (particularly the various ghost and electric effects) have not aged particularly well over the years. I’m sure they looked perfectly passable at the time, but now it is a bit distracting and jarring to see cartoonish lightning bolts pop up in every other scene.

The villain of the film, played primarily by Mitch Pilleggi, is way over the top, and chews up the scenery in every scene he appears in. However, because of the nature of his power, he isn’t actually on screen a whole lot, which is a real shame given how entertaining he is.

In general, Shocker looks and feels a little too similar to the later incarnations of A Nightmare On Elm Street, with lots of one-liners thrown about and the surreal dread put on the backburner. Pilleggi seems like he is doing an impression of Kruger throughout the film, which doesn’t help with the existing parallels of an ethereal undead serial killer villain. As entertaining as he is, Pilleggi isn’t Robert Englund.

Overall, Shocker is plenty of fun as a cheesy horror movie, with acting and effects that are well over the top. However, it lacks Wes Craven’s typical vision and style, which made him one of the most lauded figures in the genre. It is worth checking out for its entertainment value, but it is a bit disappointing as a work from Craven.