Bad Bones is the first feature film from writer/director Scott Eggleston who may be familiar to some of you for his long-running YouTube channel, The Frugal Filmmaker. It’s always interesting to see what happens when people put what they teach to use. Now he’s put his frugal money where his mouth is, did it turn out as he hoped?
Russ (Chris Levine, No Way Out, Await the Dawn) is a paranormal researcher and author. His agent is on him to finish his new book. He’s a bit preoccupied though, his wife Jennifer (Maddison Bullock, The Handler, First Kill) is suffering from a terminal illness and they’ve moved into a new house that needs some work.
It may seem odd that they’re moving, especially into a fixer-upper, while they’re in the midst of this, but there’s a reason. Russ’ research has led him to believe that the house may possess strange powers. Powers that could be the cure to Jennifer’s recovery. The fact that the house’s previous occupants vanished without a trace isn’t going to scare him off.
Bad Bones isn’t just a low-budget film, it’s a microbudget one, and knowing this I adjusted my expectations going in. Much of the first act focuses on Russ and Jennifer’s relationship and his exploration of the house. We get a visit with the requisite unfriendly neighbor (Danielle Rabinovitch, Shattered) who is happy to accept Jennifer’s cookies before slamming the door in her face.
Since there wasn’t money for ghostly effects in the budget, Eggleston takes a more psychological route with Bad Bones. The film plants seeds of doubt and unease in the viewers’ minds with plot points like, what happened to the last people to live there? Just what is the supposed power the house possesses? And why won’t Russ tell Jennifer the real reason that he bought the house?
For the most part, it works, Eggleston finds some creative, and cost-efficient, ways to suggest what’s going on and what may be at risk. And these, combined with Russ’ increasingly strange behavior create a sense of dread and possible menace as I started to wonder if his sanity or his intentions weren’t what I originally thought. Or if he had just gotten them both into something he didn’t understand and couldn’t control.
Much of the credit for Bad Bones’ success also has to go to Chris Levine and Maddison Bullock. With the film’s small cast one or both of them is in almost every scene of the film. They really do a good job of selling the situation and keeping the viewer’s interest despite the film’s lack of visual fireworks. Robin Thompson makes a brief but effective appearance as Jennifer’s mother in the film’s only other role of any importance.
My main problem with Bad Bones was the script’s lack of answers to just what was going on with the house. At one point we see Russ with some old pages that look like they came from an alchemist’s notebook. But the connection between that, whatever is under the crawlspace, and just how leaving the property causes the effects it does is never explained. Jennifer seems to find the answers via Google, but they’re not shared with the viewer.
In the end, Bad Bones is a quietly effective film that delivers a sense of unease for a large part of its running time. Those who can take their horror without special effects and jump scares should find it worth their time.
Bad Bones is available free to watch on the director’s YouTube channel. There aren’t even any ads. But you can make a donation to the filmmakers if you enjoyed it. You can get more information on the film’s website or Facebook page. And if you’re looking for more scares, FilmTagger has some suggestions.