Lesson Learned: Don’t Trust Creepy Men in Corn Fields

    He’s scarier than the love child of Freddy Krueger and Hannibal Lector; he’s the most unassuming villain in existence; he’s your next-door neighbor. The normal guy that prunes his roses in the front yard and lives alone — a million times more threatening than any of Rob Zombie’s twisted nightmares, simply because he’s a real-life testament to what happens when a creepy old man catches the scent of a young blossoming girl, and can’t control his perverted desires.

    Based on the novel by Alice Sebold, “The Lovely Bones” is the haunting tale of one such creeper and the 14-year-old after whom he pines. Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) is young, happy and healthy. She spends her days joking with her best buds, snapping photos of her fam and daydreaming about the class hottie.

    But that happy bubble is burst when Susie herself informs the audience via voiceover that she will soon be murdered. Immediately after her admission, the film takes a dark turn — and every scene that follows will cause an anxious nausea to creep further up your throat.

    Child molester and murderer Mr. Harvey (Stanley Tucci) lurks in the shadows of Susie’s carefree life, setting up each moment as potentially Susie’s last. It is during these instants of paranoia that director Peter Jackson shows off his mastery of deep screen-to-audience tension.

    As much as we wish it wouldn’t, Susie’s fated murder finally occurs one evening after school, when she’s walking home through a cornfield and meets her evidently kind neighbor. He then lures her into a self-built clubhouse out of sight and sound, where he rapes and kills her.

    Kids: don’t talk to strangers.

    Cleverly juxtaposing reality and fantasy as Susie’s life slips out of her grasp, Jackson chooses to replace what would be a gruesome act of violence with a journey through “the in-between” — a not-quite-heaven magical world of vivid color and psychedelic imaginatives.

    It is in this limbo that Jackson showcases the same outrageous special effects and supernatural elements that made “Lord of the Rings” a household name: Fields melt into oceans, seasons change when you turn the corner and ice sculptures the size of skyscrapers survey you from above.

    From the in-between, Susie desperately tries to reach out to the mourning parents (Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz) she left behind, in hopes she can lead them to her murderer.

    The soundtrack provides “Bones” with a strong skeleton, adding intensity to each scene with heartbeat-mimicking rhythm and innocent skip-to-my-loo melodies. It also makes the film’s moments of dead silence absolutely unforgettable.

    Although Wahlberg shines as Susie’s passionate father whose obsession with finding his daughter nearly leads him to the edge of madness — and newcomer Ronan can say a thousand words with her eyes alone — their character development seems fairly inadequate for a story of such emotional turmoil. Through the traumatic event itself and the heartbreak that follows, the narrative never fully dives into the family’s struggle to cope.

    All in all, “Bones” is a chilling film. Lucky for us, Jackson doesn’t dwell on how awful and sad the story is, but instead focuses on a final optimism: In death there is new life, and with tragedy there is opportunity for love.

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