By Gary Chambers (Lawrence, KS)
The domestic horrors of Bonehill Road are emphasized quickly and effectively early in the film, establishing a Mother and Daughter in serious need of a life change, on the run from a seriously abusive relationship. The film gives just the right amount of backstory that we need to care about the characters and paint a vivid picture of their plight… and once they hit the road to escape the darkness at home, their trip soon takes an even darker turn when they become stranded on an isolated road deep in the woods, right where a bloodthirsty pack of Werewolves lurk. The rest of the film is pure survivalist terror at its best.
The tension and intensity mount from scene to scene, twisting and pushing the scare factor up, piece by piece. It’s what we don’t see, at least not in full, that makes the film scare so well. We get glimpses of something in the darkness of the woods, closing in on the Mother and Daughter, stuck in an impossible situation. Alone but smart, these characters avoid many clichés and pitfalls of other Horror films by reacting like REAL people, not cardboard cutouts. Also injecting some refreshing realism to the setup is that in this secluded setting cell phones actually work. There’s no signal-hunting, but, also realistic, there is an honest and believable reason the cell phone is of no use to our characters.
As the Mother, Emily, Eli DeGeer gives a career best performance. She struggles with keeping it together for her daughter. Almost losing it a few times only to bounce back from the edge of a breakdown to find strength when she truly needs it. You could expect a character like Emily to be portrayed as a good person who’s made some bad decisions – and we do get the feeling through Eli DeGeer’s performance that she is truly a good person inside, but the film doesn’t sugarcoat the fact that, at times, she is not a perfect parent. She has made some terrible choices. But the arc of her character truly surprises the viewer and we are always on her side, cheering her on.
Newcomer Ana Rojas-Plumberg steals the show here as the daughter, Eden. At first she is angry at her Mother for tearing her away from her friends and school. But as the film progresses, not only does she grow to truly relate and understand why her Mother made the choices she did, but she also steps up and finds an inner strength to overcome her fears. She winds up being just as strong as Mom, if not stronger.
Both actresses are tremendous and choosing a favorite is really difficult. Emily and Eden are both damaged in certain ways and will probably never be completely free of what haunts them, but they pull together and form a realistic duo who gains strength together to overcome a truly vicious enemy.
Superbly acted, well-paced, and proficient with its chills.
Bonehill Road is truly a visceral, sometimes harrowing, experience. Compact, tight, trimmed of fat, and focused toward its ultimate goal of keeping us in a constant state of dread, wondering where the monsters might come from and throwing an incredible mid-movie twist at the audience. And honestly, I found the film to be a resounding success. But there’s more to it than its horror than the obvious werewolf component, much more, housed in some really outstanding performances from every member of the small cast, who more than convincingly convey the heartbreaking and occasionally shocking moments of a well thought out script.
Despite what the title might suggest, this isn’t a movie about the monster. It’s about the Mother and Daughter relationship, and their fight for survival. That means we don’t learn all that much about the Werewolves. Who are they? Where do they come from? Much like the original Night of the Living Dead, the backstory on the monsters is a mystery, and I feel the movie is all the stronger due to that choice. It makes the Werewolves much more of a menace and does not drag us away from the story that matters. The journey of these two characters.
Through it all, director Todd Sheets shows tremendous growth as a storyteller. He has a firm grip on this story and creates a film that is truly an EXPERIENCE. A truly chilling movie that showcases fantastic performances and the work of a filmmaker who’s willing to take some risks and makes it a priority to truly envelop the viewer in a nightmarish situation. It’s an engaging and worthy watch that is a fresh and original vision of familiar material. Pulled together by a director who shows no fear in his choices. Todd Sheets and his team deserve credit for creating truly menacing and terrifying practical monsters. Shot perfectly and shown JUST the right amount to keep them scary without showing too much.
Bonehill Road is a low budget monster movie. And everyone involved is clearly proud of that fact, yet director Todd Sheets has taken great care here to tell an actual story, with three-dimensional characters and deeper drama that perfectly mounts the well-crafted tension. Considering the meager budget, this film succeeds in so many incredible ways. Using only practical effects and NO CGI at all, the Werewolves are impressive, the splatter effects realistic and well done. The sound design is creepy and the lighting and camera composition always impress. Todd chose to shoot the film in a handheld style, but not shaky cam. Everything is framed well, and each shot seems to be composed for maximum effect. In fact, I found the camerawork to be just as much a part of the story as the acting and creature effects.
There are many twists to the film that I will not give away. To do so would truly ruin the fun ride that you will experience on Bonehill Road. This is a great addition to the Werewolf genre, done with real love for the subject. Old school in its approach, made with all practical effects, but done in a very unique and new way that really impressed me. This film is a creepy, scary, intense experience.