Bone Tomahawk: A Fantastic Horror Western Full of Lyrical Dialogue and Ultra-Violence
Bone Tomahawk is a beautifully written horror western that plays with multiple genres while creating memorable characters. It takes its time getting to the violence and I applaud that decision. I understand why it has stayed on the fringes of the mainstream because it can’t be categorized and features lots of patience and extreme body mutilation. Director/writer S. Craig Zahler pulled off a $2,00,000 dollar miracle and worked wonders with a brief 21 day shooting schedule. It is rare when a tiny horror western can gather such a great cast and gets nominated for multiple Independent Spirit Awards.
The story revolves around a group of men hunting down some cannibal Troglodytes. Their native burial mounds were molested (by David Arquette of course) and in their quest to get back their weird skulls they kidnap a local nurse named Samatha (lili Simmons) and drag her back to their mountain cave. What follows is like The Searchers met Green Inferno and spawned something completely original.
I love the pairing of Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox and the fantastic Richard Jenkins. The four men bring something different to the table and they get to each build their own character while spouting great dialogue. This hurts my soul to say but Kurt Russell is overshadowed by his costars. Normally, Russell is the best part of any film but Richard Jenkins (Cabin in the Woods) steals the show. Jenkins deputy character is a good man who has seen war and lost his beloved wife. At first glance he comes across as the town jester but as the film moves along he becomes an immensely likable and original character. Jenkins gets the best dialogue and I loved this line in particular.
You know, I know the world’s supposed to be round, but I’m not so sure about this part.
Their journey will inevitably lead them to doom but it all plays out unexpectedly. The violence is ugly and when it starts you almost want to cover your eyes. The $2,000,000 budget limits the sets and action set peices but it also makes the film more creative. I was talking about the film to MFF co-writer John and he was shocked to know how tiny the budget was. Bone Tomahawk is a tiny film that feels expansive and almost epic.
Bone Tomahawk exemplifies the recent crop of horror hybrids that are making a name for themselves by being very good films. They take recycled tropes and make them fresh by solid casting and legit dialogue. They aren’t content telling the same story and they’ve taken it upon themselves to build new mythologies and worlds.
Watch Bone Tomahawk. Don’t molest Troglodyte burial mounds. Appreciate Kurt Russell’s beard.