After an outlaw unknowingly leads a band of cannibalistic Troglodytes into the peaceful western town of Bright Hope, the monsters kidnap several settlers, including the wife of a local rancher. Despite his injured leg the rancher joins a small rescue party with the sheriff, his aging deputy and a strong-willed gunslinger. What follows is a journey into hell on earth as the posse comes to realize it is up against a foe whose savagery knows no bounds. The film takes place in the mid 1800’s around the border of what is now Texas and New Mexico.
With a budget of not even 2 mio $ one can say Bone Tomahawk is a rather small movie, like Outlaws and Angels but, whoa!, did BT impress me. Not only because the cast was much better but BT was like a showpiece of what can be done on a shoestring budget.
Here the writing was spot on, particularly many of the dialogues were indeed very witty and even outright funny. The characters, even if a bit stereotypical and forced, were interesting and brought their own backstory with them. Our four-strong posse of avengers were one of the best rag-tag groups I’ve ever seen on the screen.
Eventhough the pace wasn’t the fastest in the first half of the movie, we weren’t bored at all. I think the storytelling had just the right speed for what was basically a slow horseback travel that went on for four or five days. It gave us time to get accustomed to the semi-arid location and the characters moving in it.
The story of BT was interesting and peculiar, balancing on the sharp edge of classical western and horror movie. Although the horror part was more gory than suspenseful scary it’s surely not a movie for the squeamish. There was nothing supernatural about the troglodytes as they were really rather just disgustful primitives and cannibals.
I liked how the movie changed in tone and pace at roundabout half of the runtime. Our gang notices they kinda turned from hunters into the hunted and take blow after blow. All that is told to us in a rather laconic way without big shockers, just like the desert of New Mexico seems to slow down life itself.
Talking about slow, I guess we talked about slow paced movies before, didn’t we? Well, in case of BT slow speed is kinda what it’s all about. In order to get back into the time of the 1800s we must think and act and enjoy everything on a slower pace. So, yeah, BT is a slow movie … but it’s not dragging! There is always enough going on to keep our attention alive.
Our group of avengers, hardened frontiersmen one and all, meanwhile bumbles trough the scenery, sometimes behaving like bloody beginners and gives us great entertainment. Don’t get me wrong please, BT isn’t a comedy and it’s not involuntarly comical neither. It’s just the cast being a perfect fit.
Particularly Sheriff Hunt (Kurt Russell) and his semi-idiotic (or isn’t he?) back-up deputy Chicory (Richard Jenkins) are the life of the party, while Arthur and Brooder (Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox) are playing their greatly written parts very well as well. It’s really a joy observing this quartet playing together.
Arthur’s kidnapped wife Samantha (Lili Simmons) has only a small part in the story but tries her best to outwit her male counterparts. I don’t know if it’s bad writing or bad acting but her role seems to be kinda off. Instead of being the traumatized victim she’s upbeat, bratty and witty. That’s cool and Grrlpowr! and all but sorry, she doesn’t fit the story, the time period and her role.
What I liked very much was the movie’s desaturated earthy colourscheme it kept throughout the whole runtime. Only scenes in the town and inside buildings were a bit warmer while scenes in the desert had a more greyish and cold look.
All in all I gotta say BT was a joy to watch as it juggled very expertly the genres of western and horror. It’s not for everybody, that’s for sure. But if you’re diving into it you won’t be disappointed.
CONCLUSION: Bone Tomahawk is a very good movie. Not perfect but as good as one can expect from such a small budget movie. No, even better. Because a western doesn’t need a big budget; all it needs is a nifty screenplay cool characters and very good actors. And Bone Tomahawk scores at all these points.
WATCH IT? YES! With a good beer and a hearty serving of baked beans.
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