Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Todd Sheets' Bonehill Road

Cody checks out an indie werewolf movie that was recently released on DVD.

It's not often that an independent filmmaker manages to make a werewolf movie. Werewolves are complicated, costly creatures to bring to the screen, so they're a type of monster that's out of reach for many. There would be a lot more werewolf movies out there otherwise. Even when a movie has a good-sized budget behind it, the werewolves can turn out to be pretty goofy looking... But occasionally, like with director Todd Sheets' new film Bonehill Road, the werewolves turn out perfectly.

Funded with an Indiegogo campaign that pulled in more than $20,000, Bonehill Road is a film sold on the fact that it features werewolves that were brought to life entirely with practical effects. Those effects were done by Joe Castro, and the werewolves he created look exactly how I want these creatures to look; not furry-faced wolfmen, not animals that run around on all fours, but like wolves that have taken human form, standing on two legs, with arms that can reach out and grab you. These werewolves are along the lines of the ones seen in the original The Howling and Dog Soldiers. Sheets shoots these awesome werewolves in just the right way so we don't have too much time to nitpick their appearance. While we do get some cool full body reveals, their screen time is limited and they're often kept in shadow or presented through shots of body parts - a clawed hand, a snout, etc.

The story follows Eli DeGeer as Emily Stevens, a woman having what would rank as one of the all-time worst days. Having just found out that she's pregnant, she escapes from her abusive husband with her teenage daughter Eden (Ana Rojas-Plumberg) in tow and hits the road, seeking safe haven with her father Rhett (Gary Kent). It's a route that will take them through Castle Rock (a Stephen King reference) on the way to Cabot Cove (it's rare you come across a Murder, She Wrote nod in a movie like this). Unfortunately, Emily and Eden catch the attention of a homicidal creep named Coen (Douglas Epps) at a rest stop, and this guy is actually the primary threat of the movie. Although Emily crashes her car after it's sabotaged by a trio of werewolves, that crash causes her and Eden to run to a nearby house for help - and that house happens to be Coen's, where he already has some other women (played by the likes of Millie Milan, Dilynn Fawn Harvey, and legendary scream queen Linnea Quigley) held captive.

While Coen does terrible things inside his home, allowing Sheets and Castro to put some grotesque gore effects on display, the werewolves lurk outside...

Budgetary limitations are still evident in Bonehill Road and you may be disappointed to find that the 85 minute running time includes a 4 minute title sequence and 10 minutes of end credits, but if you're a creature feature fan craving a good new werewolf movie, this is one to seek out. The monsters in this film are an impressive accomplishment.

I was also impressed by some of the performances in the film. This was my first time seeing DeGeer or Rojas-Plumberg in anything (no surprise with the latter; this was only her second film, following Sheets' Dreaming Purple Neon), and they both made strong impressions. Epps also did a fine job as Coen, although the stretch of the film spent on showing what a maniac he is went on a bit longer than I would have liked.

Sheets got his start in the shot-on-video glory days of the '80s and has racked up almost 50 directing credits over the course of just over 30 years. I have seen a handful of his films (like Goblin), and this one now ranks as my favorite.

Bonehill Road is available on DVD, courtesy of Wild Eye Releasing.

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