You’ve seen Westerns. You’ve seen horror movies. But have you ever seen a Western-horror movie? No? Well then sit back and relax – you’re in for a treat.
Craig Zahler’s directorial debut stays with you long after its initial viewing. And it isn’t just the brutal elements that make this film so memorable. It’s the characters.
“Leading the pack as the battered Sheriff Hunt, Russell seems resigned to the cruelties of the frontier from the get-go.”
Following the kidnapping of some townsfolk by a clan of cannibal troglodytes, the Sheriff gathers a posse to pursue them across a barren western landscape. Plot-wise, that’s as far as I’m willing to go. You really have to watch this.
If I were to ask you to picture a hardened old Sheriff, who would you visualise? Kurt Russell? Excellent. Because he’s in the film. And these are the sort of roles he shines in. Leading the pack as the battered Sheriff Hunt, Russell seems resigned to the cruelties of the frontier from the get-go. Next in this group of misfits is old Chicory – played expertly by Richard Jenkins – a mouthy and withered old-timer past his prime.
Patrick Wilson also stars as the town’s doctor, who desperately clings to the notion of his missing wife’s survival whilst battling his own demons. Matthew Fox rounds out this posse as the fashionable and deadly dandy, Brooder.
“Zahler succeeds in creating a world that feels very much alive. Eerily so.”
Now, I’d be remiss for not mentioning the unsung star of the film – the landscape. The characters feel truly exposed as they embark across this seemingly endless wasteland, and the filmmakers do a great job of investing you in their struggles as they navigate the arid terrain. This truly is a film rooted in location.
Zahler in particular should be receiving praise for his script. The author turned director isn’t afraid to take his time as he slowly builds his characters throughout the film’s first act. And trust me, this pays off in dividends. In a genre that produces countless films annually, this is a quality that should be praised when done right. And it is done splendidly. Zahler succeeds in creating a world that feels very much alive. Eerily so.
Certainly worthy of a mention is the use of music within the film. Or rather the lack thereof. The film’s score doesn’t begin until around the forty minute mark. And even then, the use of such is sparse. This really works in adding to the already mounting tension.
Believe me, I was glued to the screen.
Honestly, this being Zahler’s first film is impressive enough. What’s more is that it was shot in only twenty-one days, with a small budget of around 1.8 million dollars. I’d say this certainly bodes well for his upcoming independent projects, such as this year’s Dragged Across Concrete, which is set to be an equally grimy thriller. And one that also boasts a fantastic cast.
In a world with countless SAW films and even a seventh Paranormal Activity in development – which at this point is absurd – it seems a shame that gems like Bone Tomahawk are often brushed under the rug. Not nearly enough people have seen it, and I urge any fans of horror cinema to give it a watch.
Also, I should probably mention that you need a strong stomach to watch this film. It does get quite graphic.