Things start out promisingly enough, as two dopey rich white guys with cell phones find themselves on the bum end of a drug deal gone wrong. Trapped in the 'hood, they run toward what looks a lot like He-Man's Castle Greyskull on the outside and the mansion from the opening sequence of Tales From the Crypt on the inside. (Dickerson previously directed Tales From the Crypt Presents: Demon Knight, a funnier and scarier romp that ended with a Snoop look-alike in black trenchcoat and fedora strolling off across the desert; Bones could almost be its sequel.)
It's clear this house isn't going to provide sanctuary. The unfortunate pair is soon rendered two gushing torrents of blood, and the film flashes back to 1979 and the same street in sunshine with high-roller Jimmy Bones (Snoop Dogg). By the time the credits finally end, we've moved up to the present day again; the castle, we discover, is Jimmy Bones' crib, and something bad happened there. Enter the obligatory stupid kids, who insist on messing around with the most obviously haunted spot in the entire neighborhood.
You've got to feel for kids too dim realize a house infested with flies, containing a corpse in the basement and guarded by a large angry dog is not the perfect place to build their new nightclub. Yet despite warnings from Pam Grier, as a standard-issue neighborhood psychic nutball, the trio of clowns builds the club, even taking the black dog as a raw-steak-eating pet.
The screenplay borrows every move from the '80s horror playbook. Jimmy Bones, like Freddy Krueger, visits the dreams of the children of those who murdered him. Like the stepfather in Hellraiser, he can be revived by absorbing the blood of his victims. Like the Crow, he's a man done wrong who returns for vengeance with an animal spirit guide.
Bones should be much better than it is; Demon Knight is an underrated cult classic, and Snoop Dogg has commanding screen presence: He shined in John Singleton's Baby Boy and exhibited similar charisma in Training Day but isn't given enough to do here. It doesn't help that the soundtrack is loaded with Snoop songs in which he name-checks himself numerous times, which kills that whole suspension-of-disbelief thing.
Early on, Pam Grier utters the suggestive line, "Some holes can't be filled, and some hungers can't be satisfied." If your hunger is for good ghost stories, she's absolutely right. There still may be a great urban horror movie to be made. This just isn't it.