By Mike Watt | December 26, 2003

One by one, children are disappearing from a small Canadian town. One woman, Madeline, thinks they’re being taken by “The Bonesetter” – a man who died in the nineteenth century. Local librarian Kyle believes her, especially when his own daughter disappears from her own home. The pair team up with friends to hunt down this creature and get their children back before he can sacrifice them and gain immortality.

A small, quiet horror movie from Ottawa resident Brett Kelly (“The Feral Man”), “The Bonesetter” is based on actual Canadian folklore, crafted dexterously into a modern day fable. There’s little gore to be found in the film, with Kelly preferring to focus on building suspense and mood. The film has low budget DV origins, but the film does well in its own confines. For the most part, the acting is perfectly fine and the editing sets a good pace. There’s not much time to get bored here.

If there’s any complaint its that everything seems to be underplayed. Having met two of the principals involved, including director/star Kelly, much of this can be chalked up to the laid-back Canadian attitude. At the same time, you start to wonder why the two leads aren’t more upset that their children have been kidnapped and are most likely going to be murdered. Emotion is sacrificed itself to the god of pacing. Even during an “angry mob” scene, voices are barely raised to “excited sports fan” level. The low key performances are really contrasted with an out-of-place cameo by Troma president Lloyd Kaufman, playing the town’s skittish mayor who warns everyone not to panic. (No worry there.)

Still, that being said, there are some wonderful touches in “The Bonesetter” that are rarely seen in indie movies. The fact that the hero has solid friendships with both his sister and his co-worker that feel genuine, as if they existed before the movie started. And the fact that everyone in the film (the children excepted) is an adult, rather than a cast filled with college students. Little things most people wouldn’t notice allow “The Bonesetter” to rise above most of its low budget fellows.

Quiet, subtle and recommended.

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