Harley Wallen’s Ash and Bone has already won some awards. Surely, it will also win itself some contrarian detractors (and you’ll find plenty in the comments of the trailer video), so let me get at some of those critiques right now, and maybe some of them halfway through. To begin with, Ash and Bone is not the goriest, zaniest, or corniest experience. Some people think heaps and mounds of gore are everything, but that’s not true for everyone. Still, I already know that, because this is another polarizing movie, some people will say, “Man, this guy’s opinion sucks!”
Look, I can appreciate gore, too, but to me, this is one of those movies where the acting and characters are primary features. Quite simply, the McKinleys practically steal the show, which is really what you’d want in memorable villains, and these two weirdos are memorable! You have Jimmy Doom as Clete McKinley, who really brings to mind the brutal, maniacal mindset of the deviants in Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes (1977 – our retro review). However, May McKinley (Erika Hoveland) has a few twisted tricks up her own sleeve… but I’m getting ahead of myself.
The Basics of Ash and Bone
I already mentioned the primary villains of the piece, so what about the other characters, the goody two shoes? Fortunately, no one’s perfect in this picture, which is usually what I want in a story. In fact, the main character, Cassie Vanderbilt (Angelina Danielle Cama), is a bit of a stereotypical, bratty goth chick, and at least borderline annoying. It’s not like the reality of life in the 21st century is beyond Cassie, but she finds solace in borderline nihilistic and sometimes genuinely criminalistic activities.
Still, her reality is soon turned upside down when she flees from her family’s vacation home and meets up with some jaded small-town locals (Jamie Bernadette, Mason Heidger) to sneak around on the McKinley’s property. As you might guess, it turns out to be a bad decision. Even Cassie, who thinks she’s tough and can face anything, gets rather terrified.
The threat is real and human, not a scary, red-eyed thing, but Cassie’s fear makes her struggle to find the courage to tell her dad, Lucas (Harley Wallen), and stepmom (Kaiti Wallen) about her concerns. So, in a way, the other monster here is family dysfunction and lack of communication (that sentence may clue you in on why this movie has some haters).
As suggested, Ash and Bone isn’t the most grisly horror movie, but it’s still dark and psychotic, and it seems few would accuse it of having abysmal acting (if they do, I assume they haven’t watched many horror movies or something). In fact, even if you say excessive gore is why you watch horror in the first place, you might want to put that obsession aside for this one and just admire the devious performances of Jimmy Doom and Erika Hoveland.
And hey, you might also hope that Cassie finds a renewed sense of belonging with her friends and at home with her stepmother, Sarah. The characters all help to give this movie a reason to keep watching. In fact, even if you don’t rewatch this one, there’s a chance I will at some point. It’s actually good!
What are your thoughts on Ash and Bone? You can tell us in the comments if you are so inclined.