Bone Tomahawk ★★★½

Courtly cowboys and cannibalistic cave dwellers get to bludgeon each other in this irreverent Old West-horror mashup!

When a vicious Native American bloodline knows as the "troglodytes" abduct Samantha (Lily Simmons), a team of gunslingers pursue to bring her home. They're led by no-nonsense Sheriff Franklin Hunt (Kurt Russell), his bumbling deputy Chicory (Richard Jenkins), flamboyant mustachioed desperado Brooder (Matthew Fox) and Samantha's religious husband Arthur (Patrick Wilson) who's furious concern is hindered by a critically wounded leg.

In a preliminary to this, Bone Tomahawk begins with an abrupt throat slitting sequence where two bickering outlaws called Buddy (Sid Haig) and Purvis (David Arquette) get disrupted by the white-powdered, tusk-ridden and body-modified cannibals who attack with an unpredictable swiftness.

To my surprise, it's a film that doesn't capitalize upon this gruesome immediacy for a padded duration. Writer-director S. Craig Zahler is more concerned in an unhurried camaraderie between the foursome. The hardnosed weariness and total badasserie of Hunt is juxtaposed to Brooder's mysterious capabilities as a "slaughterer of Indians". As for Arthur, he forces a steely determinism to push his bung leg even further to rescue his wife—despite the fact, he threatens to jeopardise their mission. Whereas, in the more hilarious instances, the eldest codger Chicaroy is unable to keep his mouth shut. There's certainly a discouragement to the 132 minute runtime for a narrative this economical (and to be honest, it could've been considerably trimmed) but I mostly reveled in how writer-director S. Craig Zahler has used the Old West lingo that is shared between its reluctant brotherhood. They become built as sacrificial heroes who's own civility is blurred among the primitives. Each actor also brings at least one riotous trait to their archetype.

It's also deliberately crafted. The expectant route is taken to a hidden lair where the "troglodytes" keep their prey. But the horror motifs are able to coalesce its gore with how the helplessness of man is slain. One particular moment is gut-swivelling stuff. That's when Bone Tomahawk pries into another realm as it alternates between reflective repartee to sudden slam-bam violence.

Bone Tomahawk is also shot in the sunbaked, brawny vistas which are synonymous to the American frontier. The genre-mashup does a number of panoramic beauties among the vast setting—and yet, still cohesive to the dingy drabness of the villain's claustrophobic confines. It's somewhat incredible how this film manages to even function as so.

Ultimately, it's a film that works pleasurably on the verbal factor and astounds in the more physical schemes. It's an unsettling, tense work about revenge coming in a form of ruthless barbarity. Entertaining stuff.

Nick Vass liked this review