Knucklebones – High Art Cinema
I love a good bad movie. I love the entertainment value of a film that was never meant to be funny, or goofy but still ends up that way. Sadly, movies like the straight to VHS horrors, and sleazy action films that made up a solid staple of past cheese watching are very rare in the new age of film. Luckily though, every now and then I sit down with a post-2010 horror film I have never heard of and get the pleasure of watching something that fits right into that old mould of awesome terribleness. This time “Knucklebones” is that film.
“Knucklebones” features an awful lot of prologue, showing in some ways that the creators put more time in the backstory than the movie itself. We kick off this gem in 1940s Germany, with Nazi scientists showing off low budget occult worshipping practices consisting of lab coats and naked ladies. They are soon destroyed by a yet unknown demon dressed in rags, wearing a kindergarten art class quality mask.
We then jump quickly ahead to Texas, 1976 where a clothing factory has the same thing happen to its employees. Well, we only see one lady as she lays on the ground yelling at someone named Billy as meat slapping noises are randomly happen. Apparently, Billy is some sort of meat slapping deviant that can only be stopped with harsh words.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re about to say, “Bob, I need more prologue. Twenty minutes of backstory, just isn’t enough for me.”
Well anonymous friend, “Knucklebones” has got you covered. We move ahead another 40 years, where the lovely high-schooler Nessa, looking not a day over 25, is buying food at a carnival. I don’t normally recommend carnie food, but I admit whatever carnival Nessa is at looks like it has its serves some sweet street pasta.
She grabs herself a mean looking plate of Chicken Alfredo and is about to chow down while looking way too happy with herself, when she sees a lone child standing there looking at her with sad eyes. After some awkward conversation, our heroine is easily convinced by the small boy to hand over her exquisite plate of carnie pasta for nothing.
That boy will be going on to big things in his life.
So Nessa, who is now out 8 bucks, meets up with the love of her life — another teen in his mid-twenties, who after adorning her with a massive stuffed elephant, immediately breaks up with her. Our strong willed heroine takes her giant novelty plushy, goes home and commits suicide.
Damn! That’s a pasta load of prologue!
So finally as the movie proper starts, we learn that Nessa survives her attempt and comes home from the hospital where her mom shows off why she’s parent of the year by leaving her suicidal daughter alone in her room with a ham sandwich, some Doritos, and a whole bottle of painkillers. Luckily, she is also visited by her bestie from high school, a young woman not a day over 29.
Nessa now has to choose between going to drink beer with her friends at an old abandoned clothes factory, playing board games with her mom, or reattempting the suicide. She stews over the pills for a bit, but like any good teen settles for beer drinking in abandoned buildings.
A short truck ride and one Creed song later, those teens in their late twenties are doing what all good teens do. Drinking, telling weird stories, finding ancient Nazi occult items in the wall, and summoning demons.
High school really is the best time of your life.
To be honest I am not sure how the Nazi box made it to Texas, as Knucklebones himself killed all the Nazi officers and scientists. So I guess he got bored, packed himself into a box with a gas mask, some clothes receipts, and a few instructions on how to re-summon him. He then shipped himself to a clothing factory in Texas. I guess that sounds plausible, although I feel like America didn’t accept a lot of mail from the Germans during this era.
It is fair to say that the acting in “Knucklebones” is phenomenally bad, in the best ways possible. Add to that dialogue so perfectly inane and comedy just pours from these performances.
Lines like, “Oh… My… God… We should totally summon a demon!” and the often repeated “That’s what she said!” amidst a quick conversation between a nurse named Mary and the town sheriff — which may be my new favorite conversation in film today.
I repeat it to you in all its splendor!
MARY: Hi Sheriff!
SHERIFF: Hey Mary, how’s that old man of yours?
SHERIFF: That’s good. Nessa Avery?
Mary points to Nessa’s room.
SHERIFF: Thanks, tell Art I said hi.
Wow! Just wow, I can’t even fathom how different a film this would have been without this scene. Delving deep into the character of Mary, and the ever absent Art. Is there a twinge of sultry romance in the air between the sheriff and Mary? Is Mary really fine? Is Art even real? This movie is a whirlwind of emotion! That scene isn’t even the best example of the human condition this movie explores.
After a group of country folk makes their way into the factory to have sex and find copper piping, one of the female members has to go to the bathroom. She proceeds to find an empty room, squats down and pees on the floor. She then puts her hands down onto the ground between her shoes and says with an annoyed and grossed out voice “Ewwww. The Floor is wet!”
A moment of high art cinema that truly left me speechless.
I do commend the makers of “Knucklebones” for the using practical gore effects over the low-end CGI that is rampant nowadays. People chopped in half, demons bursting out of bodies, a slew of decapitations left the factory floor covered in fake blood and other more meaty bits. In fact, this film has everything that you would expect from a straight to VHS horror. Bad acting, purposeless nudity and sex, practical gore effects, pasta, a wise-cracking monster, and more.
If you are looking for a new film for bad movie night with your friends, I think I have found you a winner.