Movies

How Gross Is Bones and All, Timothée Chalamet’s Cannibal Horror Movie?

A detailed, service-y, spoiler-free guide.

A still from Bones and All showing a shirtless Timothee Chalamet and Taylor Russell standing face to face near an open window. Over his face, an animated GIF superimposes a twitching meter and the words "The Scaredy Scale."
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc.

For die-hards, no horror movie can be too scary. But for you, a wimp, the wrong one can leave you miserable. Never fear, scaredies, because Slate’s Scaredy Scale is here to help. We’ve put together a highly scientific and mostly spoiler-free system for rating new horror movies, comparing them with classics along a 10-point scale. And because not everyone is scared by the same things—some viewers can’t stand jump scares, while others are haunted by more psychological terrors or can’t stomach arterial spurts—it breaks down each movie’s scares across three criteria: suspense, spookiness, and gore.

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Now let’s get to the meat of the matter! This time, we’re assessing director Luca Guadagnino’s first collaboration with Timothée Chalamet since Call Me By Your Name, the cannibal romance Bones and All. Chalamet and Taylor Russell (Waves) star as two man-eaters who fall in love as they drive across America and encounter plenty of … interesting folks along the way. But just how disgusting are the, well, bones and all? Let’s get into it!

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A chart titled “Suspense: How much will you dread the next kill or jump scare?” shows that Bones and All ranks a 3 in suspense, roughly the same as Gremlins. The scale ranges from The Joy of Painting (0) to Alien (10).
Photo illustration by Slate. Bones and All photos by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc.
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The thing about cannibalism is that it’s not always that scary? Gory, sure, but it won’t necessarily get your heart rate up. And though falling in love might be terrifying in many ways, it’s not exactly a natural source of jump scares. But traveling across the backroads of America alone as young adults, forced to wait in the dark or set up camp in remote spaces, that can be eerie. There are a couple of moments here and there when we’re jolted by the sudden appearance of a potential attacker, but they’re not so bad.

A chart titled “Gore: the Ick Factor” shows that Bones and All ranks an 8 in gore, roughly the same Alien. The scale ranges from Singin’ in the Rain (0) to the Saw franchise (10).
Photo illustration by Slate. Bones and All photos by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc.
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As one would expect, eating humans is pretty grisly—especially considering that the cannibals in Bones and All don’t prepare the flesh with fava beans and a nice chianti but rather chomp into fresh kills with nary even a utensil. Luckily, most of the eating of humans happens off-screen (though we still get the unsavory sounds). Surprisingly, the moment that really squicked out my audience was when a character was crying so hard, her snot began hanging from her nose, which she then accidentally wiped onto her cheek, prompting the person sitting next to me to amusingly remark, “They’re eating people and this is what grosses us out.” However, they are still taking bites out of stretchy-skinned, bloody humans, so this movie may not be for the weakest of stomachs.

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A chart titled “Spookiness: How much will it haunt you after the movie is over?” shows that Bones and All ranks a 4 in spookiness, roughly the same as Beetlejuice. The scale ranges from The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (0) to The Exorcist (10).
Photo illustration by Slate. Bones and All photos by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc.

Bones and All surprised me with its spookiness! Again, the journey Chalamet and Russell go on is not the smoothest, and the people they meet along the way are pretty kooky. Mark Rylance looms large here, playing a questionable character who’s also the source of some dark laughs, but more generally almost everyone they meet teeters between eccentric and murderous. Well, some they counter are also “eaters,” so safe to say they are murderous, but are they dangerous to our lovebirds? You definitely won’t walk out of the movie shaken, but for at least a few moments, you will certainly be deeply unsettled.

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A chart titled “Overall: This is even more subjective, depending on what kinds of scares get you the most” shows that Bones and All ranks a 4 overall, roughly the same as Jurassic Park. The scale ranges from Paddington (0) to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, 1974 (10).
Photo illustration by Slate. Bones and All photos by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc.

There are many ways to interpret what Bones and All is trying to say about the real world (one interpretation is that cannibalism could be a metaphor for addiction), but the scariest thing about the film is the prospect of being alone and left to fend for yourself. The thing to remember about Bones and All is that it’s not really a horror movie or a thriller but rather a coming-of-age tale and a surprisingly touching love story. It simply uses cannibalism as a vehicle to showcase life in the margins of society. Though it may be periodically disturbing, the film’s themes of generational trauma, heartbreak, and loss are far scarier than its protagonists’ taste for people-eating.

Update, Nov. 17, 2022: This article has been updated to clarify that, while Luca Guadagnino is a writer and director, he did not write Bones and All. the screenplay for Bones and All is by David Kajganich.

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