The Movie Waffler New to Prime Video - BONES AND ALL | The Movie Waffler

New to Prime Video - BONES AND ALL

Bones and All review
A teenage cannibal takes to the road in search of her mother.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Luca Guadagnino

Starring: Taylor Russell, Timothée Chalamet, Mark Rylance, Michael Stuhlbarg, André Holland, Chloë Sevigny, David Gordon Green, Jessica Harper

bones and all poster

Following his remake/reimagining of Dario Argento's Suspiria, Luca Guadagnino gives us further evidence of a childhood spent watching the gory horror movies churned out by his country in the 1970s. Like many Italian filmmakers before him, Guadagnino has made a cannibal movie, but where his predecessors set their grisly tales in the jungles of South America, Guadagnino's Bones and All plays out in the more banal surrounds of middle America.

Bones and All is adapted from a 2015 novel by Camille DeAngelis, but its late 1980s setting gives it the look and texture of some lost Eric Red-scripted horror movie from the period. In his scripts for cult classics The Hitcher and Near Dark, Red presented a netherworld that existed on the highways and byways of America. His films were populated by monsters in human form, humans who behaved like monsters, and monsters who wished they could be human. All three archetypes are present in Bones and All.

bones and all review

The monster who just wishes she could be a normal teenage girl is 18-year-old Maren (Taylor Russell). She's always the new girl at school because her father, Frank (Andre Holland), keeps moving from town to town before Maren gets too familiar with the locals. Maren is a cannibal you see, and though she hasn't acted on her impulses since childhood, Frank knows it's only a matter of time before she tries to chew someone's face off. That time comes when Maren sneaks out of her locked bedroom to join a sleepover with classmates. Overtaken by hunger pangs, Maren strips the flesh from a girl's fingers as though she were peeling the plastic coating off speaker wire.

Frank and Maren flee to a new town, but Maren wakes to find her father has disappeared, leaving some cash, a birth certificate with details of her mother and a cassette detailing Maren's grisly backstory and why he can no longer accept the responsibility of taking care of her. Setting off to find her mother, Maren discovers that there are other "eaters," and falls in with Lee (Timothee Chalamet), a young cannibal drifter who tries his best to only eat those he feels deserve such a fate.

bones and all review

Guadagnino and screenwriter David Kajganich fashion a sense that Maren and Lee aren't really under any threat posed by regular society (something greatly helped by setting the film in the pre-surveillance era of the '80s), but rather from their own instincts and those who share their curse. Like several vampires movies, this cannibal tale is an addiction allegory, but despite its photogenic young leads it never glamourises their plight. A vampire sinking their fangs into an exposed jugular is one of the most eroticised images in horror, but there's nothing sexy about a cannibal tearing flesh from bone like a rabid dog. Maren and Lee are as far from Twilight's Bella and Edward as you could find. They're a pathetic, tortured pair, but in each other's company two negatives make a positive as they try their best to control their urges. When Maren asks Lee who his first victim was and he replies "A babysitter," she beams. "Mine too!" She's found someone she never imagined she could have, someone who shares her secret, and the two bond like new classmates discovering they share a favourite band.

While several vampire movies have effectively created a metaphor for the addict, Bones and All goes further by creating a tangible world around them, filled with the obstacles and uncertainties that hound those so afflicted. Like any other addicts, Maren finds herself forced to spend time in the company of fellow addicts, knowing that any friendly visage they might present could be dropped at any moment once the insatiable pangs arrive. Mark Rylance is as hammy as ever yet still manages to be intensely creepy as Sully, an aging cannibal who refers to himself in the third person like some egotistical footballer. Sully offers to show Maren the cannibal ropes, and does make her aware of her ability to sniff out fellow "eaters", but it seems he may want more than just companionship from the teen. Decked out like a Native American minstrel, Sully scalps his victims, keeping braids of their hair as gruesome totems in a long rope. It's one of the most disturbingly original props you'll have seen in a horror movie in some time, and it plays a part in a tragic denouement. Elsewhere Michael Stuhlbarg shows up as a hillbilly cannibal who claims not just to eat flesh but to devour his victims in the manner of the film's title. He's accompanied by a "groupie," a non-eater who nevertheless eats human flesh for the hell of it. This creep is played by filmmaker David Gordon Green. The lack of any scares in his three awful Halloween films might be explained by his holding back all of his creepiness for this cameo – rarely have you seen such a sinister smile.

bones and all review

Arseni Khachaturan's naturalistic cinematography and Guadagnino's refusal to indulge in showy visuals greatly add to the gritty texture of Bones and All. This is an America as bland as the one presented so chillingly by John McNaughton in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, a land so vast and open that a killer's only way to get caught is to make a mistake or stop for a break. There's a tragic inevitability about Maren and Lee's fate, that despite their best efforts the burden they carry will finally prove too much. But for long stretches of Bones and All we believe these kids might beat the odds, and crucially, we hope they can. Unlike so many exploitative hacks, Guadagnino understands that we don't watch horror movies to witness death so much as to feel alive.

Bones and All
 is on Prime Video UK now.