BONE TOMAHAWK – REVIEW: Kurt Russell, Richard Jenkins and Patrick Wilson star in Horror slash Western, a brutal, bloody but also beautiful and eloquent genre mash up which hacks into my 2015 top ten.
S. Craig Zahler’s debut movie Bone Tomahawk is a whip smart horror western that could slap most genre pretenders red. True, it’s not as if there are a huge pile of horror-westerns – Soldier Blue was brutal and A Man Called Horse introduced body horror into the genre – but even Django Unchained clumsy mess didn’t have a fraction of the affection or originality of this.
When two robbers stray into an Indian burial ground they unleash the ire of a clan of cannibalistic, feral Native Americans. One of the robbers flees to a frontier town where he is jailed by local sheriff Franklin Hunt (Russell). When the clan attack the village, they kidnap a deputy and the wife (Lili Simmons) of Arthur O’Dwyer (Wilson), who is laid up in bed with a broken leg. Hunt leads a posse that includes old geezer Chicory (Jenkins) and Indian Killer and Dude John Brooder (Matthew Fox). Hampered by O’Dyer’s leg and prone to infighting and the attentions of Mexican bandits, Hunt’s Posse takes their sweet time approaching the clan’s caves. But when they do, they might wish they had dawdled a little longer on the way.
Zahler writes the best old West dialogue since Larry McMurty’s Lonesome Dove and he films the landscape with the same appreciation for the land and the failing light as a John Ford. There’s a genuine affection for the genre – for both genres – and the brilliant cast and Matthew Fox play it seriously, witty, but damned serious. They feel real and there is an affection for them that makes you want the time spent with them to go on. This isn’t a playful postmodern take. And likewise when things start to get bloody, and they get ghastly, Zahler takes that gross out mayhem just as seriously. Bone Tomahawk is the most original Western for years and cracking fun. Kurt Russell has another Western coming out on Christmas Day and if Hateful Eight is even half as good as this it will make for a remarkable year for the Western.