Director: S. Craig Zahler
Starring: Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox, Richard Jenkins, Lili Simmons, Evan Janigkeit, David Arquette.
Written by: S. Craig Zahler
Running Time: 132 mins
Release date: 19th February 2016
The western is a genre that has been with us since the birth of cinema (The Great Train Robbery being one of the first silent movies). In that time, they usually follow the same, predictable plotlines and characters. Even the films of Clint Eastwood, while managing to keep the genre fresh, still had elements deep-rooted from the past. Quentin Tarantino may have thought he had re-invented the western with films like Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight but nothing can prepare you for what you have in store with Bone Tomahawk, a western horror that not only captures the frontier flavour but is genuinely horrifying.
A small town is shaken to the bone when the town’s doctor, the deputy and a stranger have all been kidnapped by a mysterious tribe who live in the caves in the wilderness. Sheriff Hunt decides to pull together a posse to bring them back, made up of an aging deputy, a former soldier and the doctor’s husband, who has an injury to his leg. The four men head out to track them but soon discover that the tribe are unlike anything they have ever encountered before.
Making his debut, writer and director S. Craig Zahler has created a wonderful character driven tale, brimming with some of the best dialogue you will possibly hear from any movie this year, to then spice things up with a splattering of exploitation cinema of the gory kind, having the tribe in question as cannibals,hence the title of the film, having the tribe’s weapon of choice a sharpen bone that they use for splicing up humans.
For a good hour of this film, you are with the four main characters as they travel into the territory that belongs to the dangerous gang, listening to their conversations with great interest, for what Zahler has done is given us time to really know these men, understand their history and so we get to really emote with them. The script, although slow at first, is terrific, with naturalistic chit-chat about, well, nothing especially outstanding, yet delivered with style and class by four very strong lead performances.
Then the film changes gear and we go from the almost safe haven of listening to the men talk, to watching them fight for their survival against a savage tribe that somehow don’t seem to belong and yet they strangely do. Once the violence escalates, you find yourself, hand over mouth, at the shocking detail. Be warned, this film is not for the faint-hearted.
Having said that, it is a very worthy watch, mainly for the directing and script but for the performances. As the aging Sheriff, Kurt Russell is better here than in The Hateful Eight, given a character that is both fascinating and rounded. Patrick Wilson and Matthew Fox are also strong in their roles, yet the film is stolen from under all their noses by the brilliant Richard Jenkins, as the awkward old Chicory, a man full of life yet knowing very little. His is a star turn that you genuinely like spending time with.
Bone Tomahawk is not for everyone. It is extremely brutal and shockingly horrific, yet at the same time, it’s a confident debut from a very obvious new talent. Just be prepared for what is going to be coming at you. If ever there was a film that deserves a cult following, this is it.It has cult written all over it and I, for one, can;t wait to see what Mr Zehler comes up with next. Not only one of the best westerns in years but one of the best horror films.