Halloween Horror Celebration IV / Horror / Reviews

Bone Tomahawk (2015) review

Bone Tomahawk poster

Starring: Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox, Richard Jenkins

Written by: S. Craig Zahler

Directed by: S. Craig Zahler

Four men embark on a trek to rescue a man’s wife who was kidnapped by savages.

Bone Tomahawk, directed by first timer S. Craig Zahler, is a tense, beautiful, atmospheric western that just so happens to feature inbred cannibal savages.  A melding of two film genres, western and horror, the film is a stunning revelation that these two genres should be paired together more frequently, especially in solid and capable hands.  With staggering performances by Kurt Russell and Patrick Wilson, the show is almost stolen by both Matthew Fox and, most notably, Richard Jenkins.  It is a shame that this film was not given a full theatrical release and time to find it’s audience.  It is a powerful film and demands to be seen.

Two men are killing off travelers, and are soon on the run from horses they hear in the distance.  Buddy (Sid Haig) and Purvis (David Arquette) soon run into trouble and Buddy is killed while Puris runs.  A few days later, Purvis finds the small town of Bright Hope and is soon confronted by the Sheriff for acting strange and Purvis gets a bullet in the leg for his troubles.  The local fill in doctor, Samantha O’Dwyer (Lili Simmons) is brought in to patch him up.  The next day, everyone at the sheriff’s station are gone, the deputy, the doctor, and Purvis.  It is soon determined that they were taken by a band of savages that has no name and are cannibals and are feared by the local tribes.   Sheriff Hunt (Kurt Russell), deputy Chicory (Richard Jenkins), Arthur O’Dwyer (Patrick Wilson), and John Brooder (Matthew Fox) set out to save the people taken on a five day journey.  Arthur has a broken leg and is the husband of Samantha.

bone tomahawkI loves me a good western.  The problem is that there really aren’t that many, especially modern westerns.  There are so few coming out of Hollywood nowadays that the best you get is dreck and drivel like Tarantino’s Django Unchained, of which I am not a fan.  Sure, we get a lot of horror films and this isn’t the first film that has attempted to mash the genre together with a western, but this is the first that I personally have seen that is stunningly good.  It seems to me that the mixing of the genres would almost be second nature, that there would be a ton of films covering this ground, but, alas, there are not.  And we are lucky to have a great one like this.

This is a slow burn film.  At 2 hours and 12 minutes, it takes it’s time getting to the showdown and this benefits the film greatly.  They are not beset on all sides by the savages from the get go.  They have a slow, arduous trek through untamed wilderness to get to their destination.  This provides a more realistic take on the western genre and we get an idea just how far everything was without cars and trains and planes.  They travel light and once their horses are stolen by brigands, they are on foot, making the trek that much longer, especially with one of their number with a broken leg.  But they persevere, and Arthur is determined to be of use, broken appendage or not.  It is his wife, after all, that is being held by these monstrous abominations.

I do have to make special note of the performances in this film.  All are staggeringly good, and every one of the cast brought their A game.  Kurt Russell is always great, that is just a given.  Patrick Wilson is really starting to garner that respect I have seen in him since Watchmen.  The two biggest standouts, though, are both Matthew Fox and Richard Jenkins.  Jenkins is always great, but here he brings to life a deputy widower who served in the Civil War, a man who is old but capable but who is also a little stupid.  He asks a lot of questions, much like a child would.  His performance is staggering.  Fox is the dandy, a man who makes a lot of boasts and everyone assumes he is all talk.  From the way he walks to the way he talks, Fox brings this ex-Indian killer to life.  He is prim and proper and not just a little bit of an asshole.  He is the character you expect to turn into the guns blazing action hero of the film.  Guess what doesn’t happen . . .

Bone Tomahawk is a magnificent film, a slow burn western with an ending that will leave you breathless.  Ok, there was a pun there but you won’t get it until you see the film.  Then you will laugh at that.  Or shake you head.  Probably shake your head and roll your eyes.  I digress.  Beautifully filmed and with staggering performances, not to mention a strong script and a brutality usually reserved for Eli Roth films, this is a film that you should see.  It is currently available on VOD and in select theaters.

NOTE:  The only other western slash horror hybrid that comes to mind is a film from 2008 called The Burrowers.  It should be noted that S. Craig Zahler wrote Bone Tomahawk in 2007.

***1/2 out of ****

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