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The Bone Snatcher (2004)


Rating: 6/10

Running Time: 86 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15


Dr Zack Straker (Scott Bairstow), a Canadian systems analyst, is sent on assignment to an African diamond mining company – but Zack and the security team escorting him are soon on the trail of a killer when they discover the recently stripped skeletons of a group of prospectors in the middle of the desert. Titus (Patrick Shai), the only local African in the team, is convinced that this is the work of the native 'Esikulu' or 'sandmother', an ancient creature that drains life from the bones of others and sets people against one another – especially when Zack starts getting strange readings on his 'prototype subterranean analyser', bones disappear from one place only to reappear elsewhere, and a shape-shifting monster is seen in the night. Zack prefers to think that there must be a more rational explanation, while Karl (Warrick Grier) is set on killing the thing no matter what it is – but with the truck broken down, the group stranded, and its members dying horribly one by one, Zack, Mikki (Rachel Shelley) and the others have to think fast before the creature wipes them away like so many ants.

'The Bone Snatcher' is, like 'The Thing', about a group of humans in an isolated environment being stalked and slashed by a creature that mimics their form – and it acknowledges this debt in full early on by revealing that its main character, a specialist in extreme survival systems, previously had a project on an antarcatic base. Yet the film transfers its action from the icy wastelands of 'The Thing' to the vast, unforgiving sands of the Namib Desert (the only horror film apart from 'Dust Devil' ever to have been set there), and its monster, far from being an alien from outer space, is something far more familiar and, er, down to earth.

The film's plot follows a well-worn formula, the characters and dialogue are merely adequate, and there are few actual scares, but the creature effects and CGI are excellent, the desertscape makes a beautiful and errie setting, and the explanation of the monster, when it comes, does so with the absolute minimum of clunky exposition, and is satisfyingly original, making 'The Bone Snatcher' a surprisingly singular entry into the pantheon of the discerning viewer's favourite horror subgenre, the nature's revenge film.

And, best of all, for those who appreciate films which send knowing 'signals' to anyone who may be watching while under the influence of mind-altering substances, 'The Bone Snatcher' contains the line “Right now I'm getting a reading for acid that's right off the scale” – ensuring that the film will be sampled by underground musicians for generations to come.

It's Got: Excellent creature effects; beautiful, sweeping desert settings; creepy totems; and a lot of graphic formicating.

It Needs: Better dialogue, better characters.

DVD Extras Scene selection; choice of 2.0 stereo/5.1 surround sound/dts; optional English subtitles for the hard of hearing (handy for anyone who struggles with South African accents); theatrical trailer. DVD Extras Rating: 3/10


Highly derivative, but still watchable, desert-set creature feature which will get your pet aardvark drooling.