Bone Tomahawk (2015)
In 2015 -a year rife with exceptional Westerns – this film sets itself apart. S. Craig Zahler’s directorial debut embraces the mythos of the Wild West, populating a familiar frontier town with weathered characters and casting those archetypes perfectly.
Kurt Russell and Richard Jenkins, in particular, easily inhabit the upright sheriff and eccentric side kick roles, while Patrick Wilson’s committed turn as battered, heroic lead offers an emotional center.
Even the heretofore unexceptional Matthew Fox finds a little wounded humanity in his swagger as Brooder, the fancy-lad sharp shooter who volunteers to help Wilson and posse find his wife, believed to have been nabbed by cannibals.
Cannibals?! Hell yeah!
Zahler effortlessly blends the horror and Western genres, remaining true to both and crafting a film that’s a stellar entry into either category. Bone Tomahawk looks gorgeous and boasts exceptional writing, but more than anything, it offers characters worthy of exploration. There are no one-note victims waiting to be picked off, but instead an assortment of fascinating people and complex relationships all wandering into mystical, bloody danger.
This is not your typical cowboys and Indians film – Zahler is (perhaps too) careful to clarify that. This is more of an evolutionary wonder taking place – kind of a Hills Have Eyes in 1869.
Because the true horror is a long time coming and you’re genuinely invested in the participants in this quest, the payoff is deeply felt. This is a truly satisfying effort, and one that marks a new filmmaker to keep an eye on.
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