Bone Tomahawk from 2015 is a bit of a sleeper in two ways. One, it took a while for people to find out how damn good it is and two, most people did not know it was a horror movie.
Written and directed by S. Craig Zahler, the film falls in to the “weird western” category. It’s definitely that but more. It goes from western, to violent western, to horrific, ultra violent western into pure horror.
The film starts with two degenerate outlaws robbing and killing some travellers too close to what appears to be a standard Indian burial ground. It’s not a normal tribe though.
Immediately, one of them is killed for this insult to the natives and the other beats feet. He makes into the local town and buries is stolen loot outside the city limits while observed by a deputy. Unfortunately for him, Kurt Russell is the town sheriff who intercepts him in the local watering hole to see what he’s up to. Having to shoot him in the leg, he’s taken to the local jail where a local housewife/ nurse comes to treat him.
The Natives still smarting over the trespass of their holy burial ground, sneak into the town that night, kill a stable boy, kidnap the nurse, the wounded outlaw and a deputy who was with her in the jail and retreat back to their mountain caves.
The next morning, everyone finds out what happened, and a local Native American professor ID’s one of their arrows as belonging to a tribe of troglodytes. The Sheriff, another deputy, a gunslinger and the nurse’s cowboy husband set off to track them down and get the hostages back.
Yes, it sounds pretty standard, but it isn’t. We get numerous instances of bad luck befalling the heroes on their way to the mountain range, and some great banter and dialog from the excellent main case. The ending ramps up and is a gut punch with some of the most gory and violent scenes I’ve seen since Cannibal Holocaust. Be warned, it is violent in the extreme and I would not recommend it for date night.
The always excellent Kurt Russell is the sheriff, Mathew Fox gives his best ever performance as the professional gunman, Patrick Wilson is the working cowboy whose wife has been kidnapped and a nearly unrecognizable Richard Jenkins gives another stand out performance as the old, seemingly senile deputy.
A lot of people didn’t give this film a change because it is a bit of a slow boil. It takes it’s time, and we get to know and like the characters while they make their way to the confrontation with the cave dwelling natives. I won’t say too much about that because it’s best if you have no idea what you are about to see.
The writer/director has made some excellent modern day exploitation films and is one of my top three working today. His other masterpieces include Brawl in Cellblock 99 and Dragged Across Concrete. Neither are horror movies, but they are very violent and entertaining.
Don’t miss Bone Tomahawk this October, I never do.