Harley Wallen has been steadily directing independent films for about a decade. Bret Miller has been writing short films for roughly that same amount of time. Now, these two have joined forces, with Wallen helming Miler’s feature-length screenwriting debut, Ash And Bone. Do the two filmmakers create a truly scary horror film, or does it leave audiences wanting?
The set-up has been seen before: teenager Cassie (Angelina Danielle Cama) is forced to move from the big city to her father’s small hometown. Why the move? Cassie got into a spot of trouble back home, and her dad, Lucas (Harley Wallen), thought it best to move them, including stepmom Sarah (Kaiti Wallen), to get away from it all. However, this act pushes Cassie even further from her family.
“…tell Cassie of the local urban legend of crazed cannibals living in the nearby woods.”
After a fight with her overly analytical parent, Cassie heads out into town. She uses her fake I.D. to get into a bar, where she meets Anna (Jamie Bernadette) and Tucker (Mason Heidger). The three hit it off immediately, and soon the townies tell Cassie of the local urban legend of crazed cannibals living in the nearby woods. Cassie convinces Anna and Tucker to go investigate, and it isn’t long before the trio discovers that there is truth to the campfire tale. Now, they and their families are all in danger.
Within this familiar story, Ash And Bone does several unique things that make it a very engrossing watch. For starters, the tense relationship between Cassie and Lucas also spills over into how Lucas and Sarah interact. Despite the rebelling teen being outright rude to her stepmom, saying at one point that she’s “just the person who f**ks her dad,” Sarah often sides with Cassie. In a poignant moment, Sarah lays out exactly why Lucas drives his daughter so crazy. The care and craft put into these characters are not often seen in indie genre productions.
Happily, this also extends to Tucker and Anna, who are just delightful. Their instant bond with Cassie makes sense, as does their longing for something, anything, to happen in this place. Unfortunately, this depth does not extend to the cannibals themselves. Don’t misunderstand, they are fun and creepy as required, but there isn’t a lot to them. Though once the murderous cannibals, May (Erika Hoveland) and Clete (Jimmy Doom), start bickering, it adds some backstory. But it also raises certain questions: were they raised this way since childhood? How long has their cousin been sheriff? The film is only 97 minutes long and could have been genuinely magnificent had it as thoroughly explored its villains as it did its heroes.
"…does several unique things..."