Children all over Ottawa are disappearing. Fliers for missing children overload the bulletin board at the local library. When local children start to disappear fear starts to spread through the small town of Munster. A local librarian, Kyle Addison, becomes immersed in the on goings when a woman, Madeline, shows up looking for information on local folklore, specifically on the legend of the bonesetter. This mythical being as legend has it is rumored to be responsible for numerous child abductions in the past. As more and more children go missing, Kyle now must do what he can to protect his own child from being the next victim. Teamed with Madeline, whose own son has gone missing, Kyle sets out to discover the truth about the bonesetter and to stop his evil plan.
Right from the start the Bonesetter opens with an unsettling B&W sequence obviously set in the past where the title character started his reign of terror. After a dizzying vision showing the capture of one of his numerous victims, we get an extremely haunting (especially upon the 2nd viewing) montage of shots through the credits. Various images of areas that would normally contain children are eerily empty. From there the plot picks up quickly as we are introduced to Kyle and his bookwormish ways. The story moves at a deliberate pace that builds upon each kidnapping occurrence. With all the abduction stories in the news these days this movie could have easily gone the way of cheap exploitation but instead it is handled with care and is quite unsettling. While there is little on screen violence there is a little gore in the middle of the picture. It was actually nice to see an independent film that didn’t go over the top with blood and guts for a change. Instead we get more story and that suited me just fine.
Besides story the film also boasts some pretty impressive music. The film is filled with some catchy independent tunes. But the score is where this really shines. Going the minimalist route (which is usually most effective), the music creates excellent tension. The bonesetter for the most part is identified more by music than by physical screen presence for a good portion of the film. You know his music right away and instantly you just know something bad is about to happen. The piano score present through a good portion of scenes is reminiscent of Nightmare on Elm Street. There is even a small segment that reminded me of John Carpenter’s The Thing.
Anybody who watches independent films knows acting can vary immensely in these films with some being of the not so good variety. But that is not the case here at all. All the characters are handled well. Kyle is a very believable character who actually reminds me a lot of one of my own friends. He is an extremely sympathetic character so it is easy to care about him. There is also a great little cameo from indie legend Lloyd Kaufman as the town mayor. As always Kaufman is over the top and he had me laughing as usual.
Probably the highlight of the film has to be the direction of the film. Brett Kelly handles the subject matter well and really the film has a much more polished look than I had expected. The film is extremely well lit which is usually one of my biggest complaints of low budget films. Scenes are framed well and Kelly really seems to be aware of his abilities and limitations. Kelly almost treats the bonesetter like Michael Myers from the first Halloween. He is ever present but rarely seen. Easily most impressive is the final sequence of the film at a farmhouse. It has a real feel and the dark lighting gives an eerie look. I felt like I was walking around the farm with them due to the camera work. It was almost like walking through a haunted house.
The whole concept of a bonesetter is indeed creepy and Brett Kelly has created a film that captures the creepiness just fine. Moving at a lightning pace, The Bonesetter really never lets up. Tackling a tough subject with child violence, the film handles it well and takes it very seriously. The acting is above par for an ultra low budget indie film. Kelly’s direction is far above what you expect from this type of film and I look forward to checking out other films from Dudez Productions. If you’re an indie fan you’ll appreciate this film and I highly recommend checking it out. 8 out of 10.