There aren’t many horror westerns out there. They are a strange hybrid and hard to pull off – but they are out there! I suppose the few that I have seen really combine horror westerns and other genres mainly Sci-Fi, such as ‘High Plains Drifter’ , ‘Westworld’, ‘Grim Prairie Tales’ and ‘House 2’ which I have seen and all I highly recommend, especially High Plains Drifter and Westworld (a chilling forerunner to Terminator with Yule Brynner’s boots clacking down the corridors). Bone Tomahawk takes the western (an almost dead genre these days into weirder territory with the protagonists facing a sub-genre of horror that is as popular today as westerns are – the cannibal genre. Cannibal genre was a group of Italian films in the seventies that were based around cannibalism especially of indigenous tribes). But it has a few really good actors in it not least Kurt Russel. And what is more Kurt Russel with longish hair; somehow without his locks he’s never as good.
The film is slow burn not really gratuitous until the end, this I think is oddly enough one its strength. The most part it is a Western and it is the interaction of the characters that make this trek worthwhile. Kurt is magnificent in his role downplaying his character as the leader. While the support in this doomed tale create the hopelessness of the situation but keep going with grim determination.
It starts in suitable gruesome fashion. Two undesirables try to get away from a posse and find themselves in something that looks oddly like the forbidden ground in Pet Semetary where before you can say ‘let’s go through this Indian burial site no one will mind well, you can guess the rest.
We are then in the town of Bright Hope where there has been an abduction of the deputy sheriff, a drifter (one of the undesirables from the beginning) and the town doctor played by the beautiful ‘Lilli Simmons’ and a murder, mutilation of a stable boy, by what at first is thought to be Indians. However an actual meeting with an Indian – known as the professor – sets them straight that it is a troglodyte a savage that is piranha amongst the Indians. They are warned that any rescue attempt is futile but the sheriff is adamant and is joined by John Brooder ‘Mathew Fox’, Chicory the sheriff’s sidekick ‘Richard Jenkins’. The husband of the abducted doctor Arthur O’Dwyer played aptly by ‘Patrick Wilson’ who has been temporarily crippled in a mining accident, won’t take no for an answer and joins on the quest to get the hostages back.
It’s the trek first on horse then on foot that is the interesting study of the characters as they face a foe from quite literally the Stone age. The Troglodytes are sort of basic savages that live in caves but they have an interesting use of bone windpipes which they communicate through in whistles and wails.
This film could do with some serious editing going on way too long in the middle which makes you want to forward it somewhat causing the film to meander. But the dialogue is excellent as I believe because this is the directorial debut of S. Graig Zhaler who is a predominantly a writer. The script he also wrote which is top notch – a lot of horror films could do with some good dialogue actually a lot of modern films would be better if more attention was paid to the writing and the dialogue. On the whole this is a good effort and I’m looking forward to more S. Graig Zhaler film work in the future. It would be nice to see a little bit more Kurt Russel getting his acting chops on. Definitely worth watching if you like Westerns and something a bit different.