One of the grisliest films of recent years, Bone Tomahawk is also one of the best. Written and directed by newcomer S. Craig Zahler, this genre bending film will stay with viewers long after its ending. What starts as a typical Western delves into the realm of Horror as the story unfolds.
Kurt Russell stars as small-town Sheriff Franklin Hunt and is assisted by his deputy Chicory, played by Richard Jenkins. An incident with a common criminal sets off a series of violent encounters and kidnappings, until the two lawmen accompany John Brooder (Matthew Fox) and Arthur O’Dwyer (Patrick Wilson) to rescue O’Dwyer’s wife, Samantha (Lili Simmons). The group is slowed by O’Dwyer’s broken leg and the complicated history between Brooder and the O’Dwyers. As the film progresses, it becomes apparent that there is much more going on than the seemingly stereotypical characters and plot would indicate.
Sheriff Hunt learns the attacks were perpetrated by troglodytes, a clan of cave dwelling cannibals as violent as they are mysterious. Their stealth and knowledge of the terrain give them a great advantage over the rescue party. The cliched story progresses from the mysterious to the horrifying, while the interaction and development of the four leads sets Bone Tomahawk apart from most in the Western genre. The characters each have their own personalities, motivations, and mannerisms, and they are what carries the film. The film’s later violence is made powerful by thoroughly investing viewers in the story and its characters. The plot’s lack of realism is overcome by Zahler’s excellent writing, with a long runtime that enhances the journey the leads must endure.
The actors do well delivering the excellent dialogue, giving each character a unique and believable portrayal. Kurt Russell shines as the veteran Sheriff and gives one of his best performances in years. Jenkins and Fox stand out as well in a cast that has no weak links. The story is made gripping by the excellent work of the film’s stars. The group’s antagonizers receive limited screen time, creating tension through their lack of presence. The makeup and costumes for these cave dwellers is fantastic.
Zahler demonstrates his abilities as both a writer and director throughout, pacing the film well to slowly build toward an intense finale that brings his vision to life. Trained as a cinematographer, Zahler has written several novels and had numerous scripts fail to find development. Taking things into his own hands, the writer, director, and soundtrack contributor makes an excellent debut with Bone Tomahawk. The film’s music is a collaboration with his bandmate Jeff Herriott and helps accentuate the tension. The use of silence and diegetic sound as the troglodytes appear does well to keep viewers on edge, leaving viewers never knowing when danger will arrive.
Bone Tomahawk is not a film for the faint of heart. Those that can withstand its intense and graphic violence are rewarded with a memorable moviegoing experience. The acting, writing, and production work to create a thrilling Western that will not be forgotten for a long time.Our Rating: Observe