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Ash and Bone (2022) Review

Ash and Bone begins with a woman running for her life. A vehicle drives up, and its two occupants get out. One shoots the woman, intentionally wounding her, so the other can finish her off with a pickaxe. Off-screen of course.

Elsewhere, the Vanderbilt family, Lucas played by the film’s director Harley Wallen, (Tale of Tails, Abstruse), wife Sarah (Kaiti Wallen, Sheri Moon to Harley’s Rob Zombie), and daughter Cassie (Angelina Danielle Cama, An Intrusion, Worst Nightmare). Cassie is a bit of a problem child, you can tell because she’s got this goth/punk look going on. And in movies like this, that’s never a good sign.

Her parents have decided that forcing her to spend a summer out in the middle of nowhere without her friends will make her bond with her stepmother rather than make her even more resentful and rebellious. Instead, she takes off to a bar run by Louie (Mel Novack, An Hour to Kill, An Eye For An Eye), and quickly hooks up with Anna (Jamie Bernadette, Dead by Dawn, Jurassic Domination) and Tucker (Mason Heidger, Making Time, Scapegoat) and decides to go check out the local haunted house.

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If it sounds like you’ve seen this movie a few times before, it’s because you have. First-time feature writer Bret Miller stuffs Ash and Bone’s opening act with an incredible number of clichés. While far from ideal, that can be overlooked in a film like this if it can deliver the scares. Unfortunately, that’s another place where Ash and Bone falls short.

“I wanted to make a film in the style of the mid 2000s horror films such as House of Wax, The Hills Have Eyes and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. l wanted to follow up Agramon’s Gate with a more raw and imposing horror film.”

Harley Wallen

What they find in the McKinley house isn’t an urban legend, it’s a snuff movie studio run by May (Erika Hoveland, Strain 100, Before I Wake) and her hulking brother Clete (Jimmy Doom, Blood Immortal, Mosquito-Man). They escape but not unnoticed and the rest of the film mixes elements of a crime thriller and a horror film before going into home invasion mode for its climax.

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Unfortunately, despite what he says in the film’s press release, Wallen once again sets up a horrific situation and then keeps the nastiness off-screen. Ash and Bone deals with snuff films, torture, rape, and cannibalism, but everything happens out of sight. It’s hard to be “raw and imposing” when you’re afraid of showing a bit of violence and keep censoring yourself. Granted, I am glad he kept the subject of just how close May and Clete are to dialogue, seeing them go at it would be the wrong kind of gross.

The final act does manage to build up some suspense, even if the supposed big twist is yet another huge cliché. And it’s really frustrating because from a technical standpoint, Wallen is a good filmmaker. His films look and sound good, but apart from family films like A Bennett Song Holiday, don’t deliver on the promise of their plots and marketing.

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Between a predictable, derivative script and a lack of onscreen shocks, Ash and Bone is a dull horror/thriller hybrid that could have been The Michigan Snuff Film Massacre but instead shoots itself in the foot at every opportunity.

And to add insult to injury, when I first went to Ash and Bone’s IMDB page to check the cast’s credits its ratings were mostly split between tens, eights, and ones. When I went back later, almost all of the eights had become tens. Incredible coincidence or blatant manipulation, I’ll let you decide for yourself.

Ash and Bone is available on Digital and VOD platforms from Deskpop Entertainment. You can check the film’s Facebook page for more information. And if you’re looking for something similar, FilmTagger has some suggestions.

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