With fans of franchises such as Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Wrong Turn, backwoods horror definitely has its place in the genre. A group of unsuspecting teens travel miles away from the city to a town not fond of outsiders. Ya’ll know the drill. With writer Bret Miller penning the script, indie filmmaker Harley Wallen (Agramon’s Gate, Eternal Code) takes a swing at this niche unleashing a new sadistic family in his latest feature film Ash and Bone.
Hoping to ease tension between his rebellious daughter Cassie (Angelina Danielle Cama, Tale of Tails) and his new wife Sarah (Kaiti Wallen, Betrayed), Lucas (Harley Wallen) takes his family out of the city on a secluded get-away trip. Cassie has other ideas when she ventures off on her own stumbling into a dive bar where she meets Anna Lambeth (Jamie Bernadette, The Furnace) and Tucker (Mason Heidger, Eternal Code). When the trio decide to investigate a local urban legend involving missing women, they bite off more than they can chew.
When reclusive inbred siblings May (Erika Hoveland) and Clete McKinley (Jimmy Doom) chase Cassie and her new friends from the McKinley house, the trouble so eagerly sought after soon follows. As the horrifying truth behind the McKinley urban legend reveals itself, Lucas learns his family was safer in the city.
Wallen’s cast all give notable performances bringing nuance to each of their characters. Cama embraces her goth metal side of rebellion radiating loathsome feelings towards her new stepmother. Kaiti Wallen, the real life wife of Harley, gives an equally commendable performance as the new stepmother and Harley hits his mark as the concerned father. Hoveland and Doom pull out all the stops as a pair of formidable hillbillys with a dark secret while Bernadette and Heidger nearly steal the screen despite their limited appearance.
As your standard low budgeted backwoods horror trope, Ash and Bone tells a compelling story for fans of this genre niche offering some mystery and a couple thrills along the way. However, some of the writing goes a little over the top … and not in a good way. More like booze on a nipple way. Or an easily escapable knot way. Although an homage worthy twist is given, more attempts to be misleading and keep the audience guessing could have gone a long way. And, more could have been done with Bernadette and Heidger’s characters giving them some backstory and extended screen time. The possibilities with the latter two actor’s characters could have add more complexity to the plot itself, which seemed drawn out at times.
While it’s not perfect, Ash and Bone does have a rough charm for indie loving horror fans. And with 8 wins and 16 nominations, it certainly caught audience’s attention on the festival circuit. This feature can now be seen on Amazon Prime and other streaming services.