• Bonehill Road

    Released by: Extreme Entertainment
    Released on: 2017
    Director: Todd Sheets
    Cast: Eli DeGeer, Ana Rojas-Plumberg, Douglas Epps, Linnea Quigley, Gary Kent, Millie Milan, Dilynn Fawn Harvey
    Year: 2017

    The Movie:

    Bonehill Road marked a first for storied indie director Todd Sheets. Back in April this year he decided that in order to properly make this film, an idea he’d been playing with for years at this point, he’d need a decent budget. As such, an IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign was launched and not only did his original goal get me – but it was exceeded by over 500%. Armed with a few bucks to make it happen, Sheets and company set out “to make a great Monster Movie!!!” A few months later and the picture is finished. Here are some thoughts on it…

    The movie starts with a scene where a big drunk man named Porter Stevens (Aaron Brazier) beats on his wife Emily (Eli DeGeer). Their daughter Eden (Ana Rojas-Plumberg) comes home and tells them that she's been kicked out of school. Not surprisingly, the domestic abuse already in progress turns from bad to worse. This scene is tough to watch – and it should be –as Emily is put through the ringer, but as we see throughout the movie, she’s pretty tough. At any rate, the ladies get in the car and escape, planning to head over to her Emily’s father’s place a while until things cool down. They stop for a rest along the way and a man named Coen Anders (Douglas Epps) warns them that the highway is out. They pay him no mind and drive long into the night, talking about their situation. Emily tells Eden that she’s pregnant, but that she wants nothing more to do with Porter ever again.

    Once they find themselves in the middle of nowhere, Emily slams on the brakes to avoid hitting some sort of animal that darts in front of them. Eden is concerned that they hit it and that it might be in pain so Emily gets out of the car to check things out. By the light of her cellphone she looks around the roadside and into the nearby woods where some growling noises are heard. She wisely gets back in the car just time. A large furry creature attacks the vehicle, and they get the Hell out of there as fast as they can. A little too fast maybe, as before you know it Emily has driven into a tree near an old cemetery. Emily calls her dad but the phone dies before she can tell him what's going on.

    Emily goes into the trunk thinking that she may have left a charger in there. She finds one as well as a hammer and a flashlight and a few bottles of water. She looks at the marks on the tire where 'it' grabbed the car and sees claw marks and a lot of fur. The tire has blown, whatever grabbed it shredded it pretty good. They don't have a spare. They get back in the car. Whatever it is that attacked them is still nearby... and there's more than one of them. They make it out through the trunk of the car and escape into the night, running as fast as they can.

    After a tense walk past some abandoned buildings and through the woods, they make it to an old farm house. They let themselves in when no one answers the door, the place is a mess. They hear noises in the back, and head over there to find two women - Suzy (Linnea Quigley, sporting a stylish Dreaming Purple Neon shirt!) and Tina (Millie Milan) - bound and gagged. They free them just in time for a serial killer to come up behind Eden and put a knife to her throat. A struggle ensues, he makes his first kill and Tina winds up with a knife put through her hand. He terrorizes the remaining women for a bit, insistent on making them dinner, completely unaware that outside the werewolves that attacked the car earlier are closing in. Complicating matters even more is the presence of one of his other victims, Lucy (Dilynn Fawn Harvey). She's not dead, but the mailman sure is!

    Elsewhere, Emily's dad, Rhett Tanner (Gary Kent), is out looking for his daughter and granddaughter. That call that got cut off got him worried. He finds the wrecked car but it's empty. When a single werewolf attacks him, he gets out of there in his truck. Rhett then heads out to find out what happened to his family… and we’ll leave it at that.

    Sheets is channeling a lot of influences into this one, but it’s still very much his own film. The creature design looks a little bit like the werewolf design from The Howling, the werewolves have long snouts and pointy ears, they look more animalistic than say your Oliver Reed or your Lon Chaney versions. That’s a good thing. It makes the attack scenes more intense, it makes the horror more believable – these people are under attack by animals, not by furry men that grunt and howl. As to the effects work? What Sheets and his team have accomplished with what is still by anyone’s standards a modest budget is impressive. We don’t just get creatures skulking around in the darkness – we see the monsters in their entirety – and not only that but we get a full on transformation scene as well. All of this is done using practical effects, which is the icing on the cake. There’s not even a trace of CGI where the werewolves are involved, which is a big part of the draw for a picture like this. And of course, as this is a Todd Sheets movie, there’s gore – some really strong gore, as a matter of fact, much of it involving organ meat. It doesn’t go as far as some of his other films have in this department but it’s hardly a picture for the squeamish! Again, these effects are all done using practical techniques.

    As to the camera work, there is a bit too much shaky cam at times, particularly in the scenes where Coen is terrorizing the women, but this is a minor complaint. These scenes contrast at times with some impressive long shots showing off some of the locations – an empty bridge in the middle of the night, the moon shining through the trees of the forest, an aged cemetery in the background of the car crash scene. For the most part, the movie is quite well shot and the lighting is very effective as well. Production values are given further polish thanks to a good score and strong use of music (a cool cover version of Bad Moon Rising plays over the opening credits). The movie also boasts nice location work – the cool old abandoned buildings that Emily and Eden walk past before they get to the farmhouse add some atmosphere to the picture. Once the action shifts to the farmhouse for the last third of the film the movie feels a bit like Night Of The Living Dead in that an outside threat that they don’t understand is laying siege as they’re barricading themselves into a remote singular location. This last part of the picture is, maybe not so surprisingly, where Bonehill Road is at its most suspenseful. You really don’t know who is going to make it out alive.

    Lastly, there are the performances. Not all of them are perfect, but most of them are pretty strong. Supporting work from Quigley and Kent is solid. They’re both experienced actors and they do just fine here. If Kent seems a little slow in some scenes, well, he’s playing a grandfather, grandfathers don’t usually move very quickly even when they’re being chased by werewolves. Quigley’s screen time is a bit on the short side but she makes the most of it – you don’t definitely won’t forget her character. More importantly, however, is what our two leads deliver. Eli DeGeer, who Sheets used last year in the aforementioned Dreaming Purple Neon, is really good here. When she’s being beaten in the opening scene, you feel for her and that doesn’t change as the story plays out. She’s tough, willing to do whatever it takes to protect her daughter, and we have no trouble buying her in the role at all. She handles herself well in the action scenes but just as well in the film’s quieter moments like the ones that she shares with Ana Rojas-Plumberg before everything hits the fan. Likewise, Rojas-Plumberg, another returning cast member from Dreaming Purple Neon, delivers strong work. She shows good range here, and has good chemistry with DeGeer. These two women carry the film, at least in terms of the human characters that populate the picture. Supporting work from Millie Milan is also good, while Douglas Epps and Dilynn Fawn Harvey are good here as well.

    Bonehill Road is currently playing select festival dates and is slated for home video release in the coming months.

    The Final Word:

    Bonehill Road might be Todd Sheets’ best film to date. It’s well put together, nicely paced and it features strong performances and excellent effects work. Fans of old school werewolf stories and practical effects work should be suitably impressed with what is legitimately the best indie horror film I’ve seen all year.