Skeleton Man

Dir: Jon Hoffman
Star: Michael Rooker, Sarah Ann Schultz, Casper Van Dien, Nils Allen Stewart

"Professor, this is the last box from the Indian burial site." After that opening line, do you really need a synopsis? Experienced horror fans can probably construct most of the film from there on, and they'd be fairly close - except for the unexpected use of Predator as an inspiration. After a bunch of army men go missing, Capt. Leary (Rooker) takes his team into the forest to face Cottonmouth Joe, a centuries-old, unkillable Indian brave with a grudge, a variety of pointy and blunt implements, and apparently the ability to see in infra-red. "If it breathes, I can kill it," mutters one of the co-ed squad at one point, but since it appears Special Forces now require prospective female members to submit a model portfolio, she's not quite as convincing as Arnie. The team also includes an underwater demolitions expert: she isn't underwater and doesn't demolish anything.

Such indicates the level of thought that went into this - not very much. One school of thought suggests this uses footage from a project that stalled mid-shooting, which would explain scenes apparently spliced in from elsewhere, such as Leary's flashback, or when his Lieutenant (Van Dien) hijacks a truck and crashes it. Or the finale, which suddenly goes from the forest to a chemical plant. Mind you, the trees are apparently made of flint rather than wood, emitting showers of sparks when hit with bullets. There is one excellent head explosion, but the rest of the film is remarkably ungory, mostly blood spattering on rocks and foliage. Rooker does his best, tersely muttering military jargon as his squad gets picked off around him - but he's fighting a bigger, badder enemy than the titular spirit, in the shape of the script. Against that hideous monster, few would have any chance, though to its credit, this is never actually boring. Dumb and incoherent, yes: just not quite dull.

[This film was released in the US on November 22nd, in widescreen. For more information, visit MTI's website.]

December 2005

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