Not all homes are blessed with good bones—in fact, some have downright evil ones. At least, that’s what writer/director Scott Eggleston has to offer in his new feature film “Bad Bones,” which treads the fine line between psychological horror and soft independent science fiction. This is Eggleston’s first feature film, shot entirely in Alaska on a modest budget during the height of the covid-19 pandemic.
The plot is a mix between Andrei Tarkovsky’s “Solaris”, with the feel of Philip Kaufman’s 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Thief, and a structure reminiscent of Shane Carruth’s “Prime” (2004). The film begins in a dark and forbidding suburb of an unnamed Alaskan town. The snow slowly began to drift inward. Two homeowners, with looks of defeat on their faces, stand in front of their house looming above them. The house, when photographed from a low angle, looks like a pure villain with evil, soulless window eyes, and a morbid wide garage mouth. Then in the blink of an eye, they both disappear as they move away from their home, almost like the reflection of Lot’s wife.
Months later, the snow is gone and there’s a new couple moving into the sinister house: Ross, a horror novelist (played by Chris Levine) and his sick and slowly dying wife: Jane (Madison Bullock). As Jane tries to occupy her time, her husband reveals a suspiciously large crawl space under the house. As he makes his way deeper into the crawl, he discovers a strange pile of dirt, an ancient alteration that has the power to duplicate whatever is placed upon it.
It’s here where the movie feels like a “Primer” movie, as Ross becomes more and more obsessed with the earth-shattering marvel and begins to experience his own experience of it. At first he put one apple, only to come back and find a duplicate of that apple. Then he put four apple slices on the pile, only to find four perfectly formed apples. It goes from these fruity experiences to one that’s somewhat more complex quickly, and this causes all sorts of chaos because the rules of the Lovecraftian plot device are more complex than he expected. It’s a “be careful what you wish for” tale, because the thing he thought could save his family had deadly consequences.
The pace of the film was quite surprising, as I was expecting a slow, subject-heavy, sci-fi drama, as that seems to be the trend in the genre right now. But instead, we get a movie that moves at a fairly fast pace, causing some major plot twists to happen sooner than expected, and even one twist I didn’t even expect. The setting for the movie is clever, almost twilight zone. On a technical level, the movie looks good, although there are some places where the budget and the fact that it was filmed during the pandemic itself certainly comes down to it. Having a main cast in one place is almost repetitive, but Eggleston does a good job of trying to keep things fresh by adding some supporting characters, like a nosy mother-in-law and a suspiciously weird neighbor.
left want more
There are also a few hands-on effects in the movie that were so cleverly executed that I wasn’t quite sure how to get them out. And Eggleston makes a great choice not to overexplain the science in the film. He clearly trusts his audience is smart enough to piece together certain causes and effects during Ross’ experiments. But this can also be seen as a double-edged sword, as it already leads to a level of ambiguity by the end of the film that may leave some audience members frustrated. And to be honest, by the time the credits started, I wanted more. Not necessarily more answers, but more world, more characters, more concept and more hands-on effects. “Bad Bones” is definitely better than your first feature film, and it makes you wonder what all this director could accomplish on a bigger budget.
ARKANSAS . Relationships
Although “Bad Bones” was filmed in Alaska, it has a lot of Arkansas connections. Eggleston is a graduate of the University of Central Arkansas with a master’s degree in film. He has produced and directed several short films in the region. Another heavy science fiction movie, “Collection Day,” was shown at the Little Rock Film Festival in 2015. Eggleston even flew two former UCA classmates to be part of his exposed crew, Jarrod Paul Beck and Eric White. The three actually collaborated on the screenplay for “Bad Bones,” came up with practical effects together, and each shot at least part of the movie. Even post-production efforts were outsourced to other former students at UCA. That’s one thing Eggleston has nothing but nice words to say about the tight-knit film community here in central Arkansas. He said Alaska lacked a strong network of local filmmakers.
Eggleston isn’t just interested in keeping his friends working by making them work on his films – he’s also dedicated hundreds of hours to help filmmakers around the world. Back in 2010, while attending the University of Utah, he started making educational videos as a “thrifty filmmaker”. He was sharing tips and tricks on YouTube to help new filmmakers produce high-quality short films without a budget. And through his YouTube page, he’s built a following that has turned into a community of filmmakers helping each other out. They even helped him raise money for a graduation thesis movie. And I’m sure it’s years of “thrifty filmmaker” moniker, and over a decade of experience, that finally allowed Eggleston to make his first feature film using his own money, friends, ingenuity and even his creepy house.
“Bad Bones” is currently streaming on Amazon Prime and Plex.