Fantasia Faceoff: Boneboys vs. Chained
This past weekend at Fantasia I was lucky enough to catch the world premieres of two excellent – and very different – horror movies, and even luckier not to have suffered any nightmares after the fact. Seriously, between these two films there are lot of scares to go around – and while neither film is showing again at the festival, each is definitely worth the trouble of tracking down if you’re ever in need of a fright. It’s covert cannibalism versus serial slayings in this, our penultimate Fantasia Faceoff.
Directed by Duane Graves & Justin Meeks
Written by Kim Henkel
Inspired by Jonathan Swift’s satirical essay “A Modest Proposal” – wherein the author recommends the Irish alleviate their poverty by eating their children – Boneboys paints a portrait of a decadent cannibalistic subculture based in a San Antonio warehouse. It’s into this world that the (misnamed) Sissy is forcibly drawn; she fits certain criteria for desirability and so the “boneboys” of the title are after her flesh. Pretty soon it all falls down the rabbit hole, with this hidden world turning out even weirder – and more horrifying – than she could have imagined.
Frightening in more of a funhouse mirror sort of way than anything else, this is a gory romp, an inspired piece of (soft) torture porn with a well-developed sense of camp. I mean, one of the minor characters is a vengeful gun-toting father coated in shaving cream. Another is a poetically-minded gourmet with a pencil mustache and a gramophone. It’s all scary – you wouldn’t expect anything less from the writer of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre – but more than anything else, it’s fun. And I can guarantee that the final torture scene will stay with you, in that you’ll never look at the phrase “off the top of my head” in the same way again…
Of course, the main characters are flat (watch out for the skanky girl who gets sidetracked from the fact that she’s about to be murdered by her own skankiness), and the acting’s pretty sketchy all round. But all in all this is one of those movies where enjoyment is up to you. Watch it (when you can) with lots of friends and snacks and beer, and the right kind of attitude, and you’ll have a good time. Read more about Boneboys over at the Fantasia website.
Directed by Jennifer Lynch
Written by Jennifer Lynch, Damian O’Donnell
Can there be such a thing as an apprentice serial killer? When nine-year-old Tim gets kidnapped by Bob, a taxi driver, and enlisted to help him keep track of his various murders, that certainly seems to be where things are going. Tim grows up in Bob’s fortified farmhouse, enslaved and alone, watching murder after murder take place… and as he grows into a willful young man, Bob expects him to be an avid pupil.
Intense, claustrophobic, and highly dialogue-dependent, this is the kind of movie that could be performed on a stage with little modification. There’s so much emphasis placed on the shaky dynamic between the shackled Tim and his captor, and the stunning performances make this dynamic all the more compelling. Vincent D’Onofrio keeps Bob walking the thin line between completely deranged and nearly sympathetic, even as the character commits horrifying act after horrifying act. A skeletal Eamon Farren maintains a similar balance as he portrays the older version of Tim, keeping us guessing as to whether he’s taking Bob’s lessons to heart or not.
Interestingly, some of the strongest scenes in this film are the ones that inject something other than horror into the proceedings. There’s a darkly comical moment where the two play cards with the photo IDs of Bob’s victims that will stick in your head for sure, and even an oddly romantic scene involving a victim-to-be that I won’t describe further except to say that I don’t think anything remotely like it has been filmed before.
All told, Chained is a fine, fine film, thoughtful even as it covers some very dark – and occasionally gory – material. Jennifer Lynch has put together something truly remarkable here: a character-driven horror film that would be less horrifying if it placed less emphasis on character. See what I mean this October, when the DVD hits the shelves – and in the mean time, get the details on Chained over at the Fantasia website.
This is an especially difficult Faceoff to judge because these two movies are so obviously at cross-purposes. Chained is a chilling character study while Boneboys is a good old fashioned horrorshow, all screams and chainsaws. Of course if you’ve got your Film Studies PhD glasses on then Chained wins hands down: it’s got much higher production value, stronger and more nuanced performances, and a smoother script. But a film like Boneboys isn’t really meant to be judged that way and it’s not doing anybody any favours if I do. And so, by reason of irreconcilable differences, I declare this Fantasia Faceoff a draw. I’m going to suggest you get ahold of both these movies if you can, and see for yourself which one accords with your (pun intended) personal taste.