Bone Tomahawk Review

Posted: October 22, 2015 in 2015 London Film Festival, Horror, Reviews
Tags: , , , ,

bone tomahawkBone Tomahawk is a horror-western hybrid – think The Searchers meets The Hills Have Eyes. Hey, nothing wrong with that except director/screenwriter S. Craig Zahler opted not to take the best elements of each genre, but rather all the elements of both. The result is a movie with an unconscionable run time of 132 minutes, which is at least 30 minutes too long, given the subject matter and treatment.

Put more bluntly, if the centerpiece of your movie is a lost tribe of murderous cannibal mutant freaks, don’t keep them off the screen for three-quarters of the film.

Yes, we do get the scene that Eli Roth tried for in The Green Inferno but never achieved, the one that starts by bringing gasps from the audience that change to low moans right before peaking to disbelieving cries and finally ending in nervous laughter. There are a couple of other payoff points for the hardcore horror fan as well, including an image of the tribe’s women that will be be forever seared into your cinematic memory. These scenes – which are intense and terrifically filmed – effectively limit the audience. Come for the western and stay for the tusked giant humanoid is not a tag line that will resonate with the average movie goer. Horror fans will grow impatient with the trek through the old west that takes up much of the film, while devotees of oaters are likely to be repulsed by the film’s final act.

Two dumb ass cutthroats (and they are literally cutthroats, if not particularly capable ones) stumble across what we assume to be an Indian burial ground at the outset of Bone Tomahawk. You don’t have to be Jeremiah Johnson to know that this is a big mistake as in an error that your ancestors will still be deeply regretting 150 years later. One of the aforementioned dumb asses survives the encounter and makes it to the town of Bright Hope, a post-modern oasis amidst the anarchy of the 19th century, which is ruled by an immaculately groomed metrosexual sheriff (Kurt Russell) and healed by a hot chick doctor (Lili Simmons), who pinch hits for the drunken town sawbones.

Bada bing, boom boom (a period of exposition that includes a gratuitous bedroom romp between Simmons and her bed-bound husband), the chick, the dumb ass, and a superfluous deputy sheriff have been whisked away away by the keepers of the burial ground, leaving the sheriff, the gimpy husband, the back-up deputy named Chicory (Richard Jenkins), and a gunslinger (Matthew Fox) with a better wardrobe than the sheriff, but who is no match in facial hair, in pursuit.

The cast is solid. Russell in a western is a sure bet, and he meets expectations even if he doesn’t exceed them here. Jenkins finds redemption after his terrible turn in God’s Pocket, and Fox acquits himself nicely. Zahler demonstrates enormous potential, not only as a screenwriter, but also as a director. He needs only to learn to kill his darlings as ruthlessly as his dispatches several of the characters in his first feature.

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