Flashback: Is Dr. Bones Based on an Urban Legend?

Jed Shepherd’s ‘Flashback’ on Netflix is a gateway horror film, according to the director, and centers around a yoga instructor, Jess, whose life is about to turn around. The Jemma Moore-starrer is set in 2022 initially, but the short also deals with time travel. Jess and her boyfriend Scott are victims of a fatal home invasion, which doesn’t have to end badly for anyone. There’s a lot of suspense, thrill, and the unavoidable presence of Jess’ favorite soft toy, Dr. Bones. A lot of the plot revolves around Dr. Bones, the creature who seems like Jess’ best friend. Since there’s so much mystery around him, it makes us curious about its origins. SPOILERS AHEAD!

The Origins Behind Dr. Bones

For creating the monstrous creature of Dr. Bones for his short, Shepherd turned to illustrator Trevor Henderson and took inputs from ‘The Evil Dead’ filmmaker Sam Raimi as his mentor. While the source of his inspiration for Dr. Bones isn’t very clear, Shepherd has revealed how different concepts and films have inspired him for many of his projects, and he wishes to create something scarier with each one. He also revealed to Fangoria that having Raimi as a mentor for his film helped him with ideas and the creation of something he is very excited about.

While Shepherd’s silence has a lot to do with not wanting to spoil the experience, Dr. Bones’ similarity with an urban legend is hard to ignore. On the face of it, Dr. Bones resembles the legend of the Grim Reaper, which originated as a figure and a concept in 14th-century Europe when civilians were dealing with the deadly outbreak of a plague. With so many deaths being witnessed, an obvious fascination with a figure that represents death started. The Grim Reaper was associated with a hooded skeletal figure holding a scythe for, as the name suggests, “reaping” human souls.

In appearance, Dr. Bones closely resembles the Grim Reaper, with a skeletal body, signifying what the human body becomes after death and decay. And just like the Grim Reaper, Jess starts seeing a vague Dr. Bones figure everywhere just before she is about to get killed, serving as a warning for her death sentence. Even the soft toy of Dr. Bones Jess sleeps with every night resembles the Grim Reaper. The only difference is that Dr. Bones is always a positive influence on Jess’ life.

She feels safe with him, and ultimately, when the time for her death comes, Dr. Bones helps her get another chance through time travel and takes her back to safety instead of leading to a certain death. This is why even if everything about the creepy Dr. Bones seems off and a lot like the Grim Reaper, the creature has received a much-needed twist in this narrative. It’s definitely creepy enough for people to be scared of it, but for Jess, who finds comfort in the creature, the rules of death also don’t apply when her time comes. This is just because she has manifested this special relationship with Dr. Bones, who seems to have made an exception just for her.

Read More: Flashback Ending, Explained: How Does Jess Prevent Scott’s Death?