I’m not sure how Bone Tomahawk came to my attention, but once it was flagged I was really keen to see it. I missed it at the cinema so was very grateful to the Book God for getting it for me as a gift.
In the dying days of the old west, an elderly sheriff and his posse set out to rescue their town’s doctor from cannibalistic cave dwellers.
Not an entirely accurate synopsis but it will do to kick us off.
We start with a couple of outlaws who have robbed and killed some settlers and are therefore on the run. Unfortunately while running they stumble upon a sacred site which they desecrate by their mere presence; one is brutally killed and the other makes his way to Bright Hope. An altercation with the sheriff leads to him being shot, which results in the wife of a local rancher tending to his wounds because the town’s actual doctor is dead drunk, further leading them both to be kidnapped along with the deputy who is keeping an eye on things. None of this becomes clear until the next morning when the body of the young stable boy is found and the bad guys have already made their escape.
We then have the classic posse heading out to rescue the hostages. Sadly there are only four men in said posse, one of whom is injured but determined to take part in his wife’s rescue. They are made aware that what they are dealing with is a group of cannibals shunned by the various Native American tribes, but despite all of that they feel they have to make the attempt. And off we go.
I was interested to see that at the beginning the horror was fairly low key – yes there is a gruesome murder and we see the graphic results of that, but generally we don’t get a feel for what the troglodytes are capable of until our heroes get nearer to their base. That means that the film is for a large part a fairly traditional western with some very recognisable characters; the grizzled sheriff (Kurt Russell), his ageing deputy (Richard Jenkins), the decent rancher (Patrick Wilson) and the flashy gunslinger (Matthew Fox). The performances are restrained and the horror builds up slowly until we get to a scene of graphic violence and ritual killing which was quite astonishing, and had a major impact on the characters who witnessed it and the audience i.e. me.
I liked the fact that the kidnapped woman, played by Lili Simmons, was intelligent, capable and fully aware of her predicament, able to assess the strength of her captors and not faint away. This is always a good thing.
Other good things:
- grizzled Kurt Russell is the very best Kurt Russell, especially when being stoic and brave;
- Richard Jenkins is a fine actor and I have loved him in everything I’ve seen him in, and he is fabulous here;
- although the violence is extreme and graphic it didn’t feel to me to be gratuitous, but YMMV.
I enjoyed this slice of Western horror, and because I had to watch it alone as the Book God does not like This Sort of Thing it has spawned a new hashtag – #HorrorByMyself 🙂 – you will be seeing that a lot in the next wee while as I seem to be on a horror kick.
Dazzling details: Bone Tomahawk was directed by S Craig Zahler, is 2 hours 12 minutes long and not at all surprisingly is rated 18 for strong violence.