‘Ash and Bone‘ is an indie horror film that follows Cassie Vanderbilt who is forced to move to a new town with her father who she has a strained relationship and a stepmother who she barely knows. Unbeknown to them, this small town and a specific family, the McKinleys, have a terrifying and deadly secret that threatens their safety and their chances of a new better life.
As is almost typical of films of this kind, I mean, the ‘family goes out of town and encounters danger’ kind of film, there is certainly one person who isn’t excited about the trip. In this particular film, that would be Cassie (played by Angelina Danielle Cama). She is Lucas’ (played by Harley Wallen) almost 18-year-old daughter. She isn’t excited about leaving her old life behind and coming along for this trip and she expresses that any chance she gets. But Lucas feels this is a great opportunity for a fresh start to fix their strained relationship and also a good chance for Cassie and her stepmom Sarah (played by Kaiti Wallen) to bond over the summer holidays.
Sarah on the other hand is doing her best with the opportunity she has to take her place as a stepmom and so she often sides with Cassie.
The film’s screenplay allows you to see the full dynamic of the relationship between these three. We see their relationships with each other tested and that makes them feel more real and very relatable. Cassie’s reasons for being rebellious and also well-revealed without making it seem too cliche.
The story takes a turn from otherwise behind a family drama when Cassie encounters a local young couple, Anna (played by Jamie Bernadette) and Tucker (played by Mason Heidger). at a dive bar.
They strike an immediate friendship because of similar interests and they decide to visit a haunted house in the locality. Cassie’s curiosity and her gothic nature get the better of her and that’s when we get introduced to the McKinley family.
The family with a shadowy history seem to be responsible for all the cases of missing persons in the area because they happen to be cannibals.
The McKinleys do not take likely to the intrusion of their space and decide to hunt down Cassie and her friends which leads to putting both Lucas and Sarah equally at risk.
Interestingly, the villains are also somewhat humanized in this film. Even though per the story being told they are murderous cannibals, May (played by Erika Hoveland) and Clete ( played by Jimmy Doom) are given an interesting back story that is enough to pique your interest about them. We also get to see them with other desires other than just wanting to feed on other humans. Nonetheless, you can’t sympathize with them or agree with their motivations.
The film is directed by Harley Wallen who also plays the role of Lucas. Together with the other onscreen talent, the acting in this film is good. Cama plays the role of the rebellious teenager ‘Cassie‘ well enough whilst also managing to deliver a good enough depiction of fear and bravado that the character also requires to show in several parts of the film.
The other actors equally hold their own making the performances in this film all round satisfactory.
The film keeps a decent and steady pace that seems to draw you in gradually. From the start, you get the vibe that something terrible is about to happen and you just have to wait for it. It is not rushed but neither is dragged out. The tension helps keep you interested in seeing this right through to the end.
For an indie film, ‘Ash and Bone‘ certainly has the look and feel of the horror genre. The cinematography by Alex Gasparetto presents the right framed shots with shadows and contrasts that give you that creeped-out feeling.
Another thing that is noticeable about his film is although it has all the markings of a slasher-type horror film, it is mild on the gore and graphic violence. Perhaps the intent was not to gross out the audience completely. But you get the idea of what is happening or as happened and that works well enough.
It is also not chaotic and does not have the usual chases in the woods, jump scares and screaming which is most typical of films that share similar stories.
I would score this film 6.5/10.
In the end, ‘Ash and Bone’ is a decently written and very well-acted indie horror that shows the talent and prospects of the team of creatives behind it. It might not be an overly exceptional contribution to the genre or anything we haven’t seen before but it is worth the time spent on it.