A young boy and his grandfather camping out in the woods. Something unnatural kills the old man and leaves the boy alive but traumatized. Years later on the advise of his therapist he returns to the woods to face his supposedly imagined fears. I’d seen this premise enough times that I was going to pass on GNAWBONE until I saw a picture of the creature, all teeth, claws and sharp ends in a wonderfully 80’s way. That sold me. And the film does have an 80’s vibe, right down to a scene in a heavy metal oriented record shop and references to Alice Cooper and Ozzy. So far, so good.
The film’s main plot picks up years after the killing of Tommy’s (Tony Bartele) grandfather. Tommy, now a college student and seeing a psychiatrist for the trauma. On the psychiatrists advice Tommy goes back into the woods with some friends because there’s no such thing as a monster, right? Right?
GNAWBONE starts and ends strong but it drags like hell through the middle. Just lots of shenanigans on the road and in the woods, filled with bad dialogue and a character so obnoxious you wonder why anyone wanted him around. Apart from the obligatory weird old guy saying “Don’t go in the woods” there’s nothing of value to the plot or of interest to the viewer here. A fault of too many films like this have and is really noticeable here.
The other flaw is a little more complex. This is supposed to be Tommy’s story, but almost as soon as they head for the woods he becomes background to the two couples that go with him. The change in focus isn’t for the better either. Tommy is African American, his friends are all white folk. The backwoods horror genre is overwhelmingly a white one. So taking the story from a black guy with a backstory and giving it to a bunch of stereotypes with no purpose except to drink and die is not only an odd story choice, it tosses away the potential to do something different.
That said GNAWBONE isn’t a bad film. The monster is cool looking, there’s plenty of atmospheric cinematography and some nice kills. There’s much worse out there and a couple of beers should make it’s faults a lot less noticeable.