Nighttime in a rough neighbourhood. A man runs down the streets and alleyways until he rushes into a building across the street from a large, abandoned house and takes out his rifle, then starts taking shots at a large, black dog with glowing red eyes that has been hanging around outside, but the bullets have no effect. Nearby, a couple of college students are seeking crack to buy from a couple of local dealers, but the arrangement isn't quite in their favour as the dealers take their cash and tell the boys to retrieve the package from a hole in the wall in that abandoned house. How are they to know there is some spirit haunting the place? And when a cop patrol car arrives, the students take refuge inside, an act that spells their doom as that spirit is making a comeback...
One of those horror movies that appeared to be designed to spawn a franchise (like, er, Spawn) but never did, Bones featured a starring role for rapper Snoop Dogg, after he was Snoop Doggy Dogg but before he was Snoop Lion, and also before he was Snoop Dogg again. Anyway, casting rappers was a bit of a cliché in the nineties and beyond since they were seen to lend the production a sheen of respectability with the target audience, but really they had been winning roles in films since the music genre arose in the eighties, often in works far lower budget that this. Some were better at the acting game than others, but Snoop was a curious choice for a lead, as his supporting part as Huggy Bear in the Starsky and Hutch remake/spoof would seem to be about his level.
As if recognising this, Bones didn't even give him a line to speak until the movie was over half an hour in, spending all of that establishing a premise that could have been dispensed with in the first five minutes, which was a pity because against the apparent odds Snoop was actually very entertaining, if a tad one note, as the ostensible villain of the title. For that opening act, director Ernest R. Dickerson, an avowed horror fan whose talents in the cinema were underused, though he was able to indulge himself later with many episodes of television's zombie epic The Walking Dead, preferred to concentrate on setting up what comes across as a warning to the younger generation to pay heed to the sensible advice the older generation offers to them, but it didn't continue in that vein.
This was down to Bones more or less being A Nightmare on Elm Street with a more "urban" flavour, and a less despicable bad guy as the supposed evildoer turns out to have done nothing worse than operate a numbers racket that was perfectly legal and it was only when corrupt cops and members of the black community tried to force him to sell drugs to the neighbourhood he looked after that he met his downfall, in that very mansion we saw at the beginning. So it is the children of those who wronged Bones who are now suffering, not that the parents are let off the hook either, and when Patrick (Khalil Kain), son of an apparent pillar of the community (Clifton Powell), tries to open a nightclub in the old house it spells all sorts of mayhem kicking off, not to mention a mix of CGI and practical special effects.
As well as some weirdly fake-looking blood, which you have to assume was making some kind of statement, though what that was is a mystery. It was in this stretch of the movie that things began to get interesting, and surprisingly funny as a black comedy element was introduced when Bones is unleashed from his tomb ("Free at last, free at last!"), making with the quips and getting up to such tricks as beheading his oppressors and carrying the bonces around with him as containers for their souls, all the better to transport them to his special... wall. Yes, he has a wall of souls which writhe in eternal torment, a nice example of the practical effects work, and our heroes have to make sure they don't end up there, those heroes including a role for Pam Grier who gets to play herself in 2001 and 1979 and manages to get away with that, so well-preserved was she. Horror fans would note the presence of Katharine Isabelle as Patrick's stepsister (this was shot in Canada), and teen entertainment fans would appreciate Bianca Lawson as a love interest in what was very entertaining (belatedly). Music by Elia Cmiral.