Bone Tomahawk, 2015
dir. S. Craig Zahler
Badass, gorefest, gorgeous. This is pretty much how I’d describe this film in a few words. This film was an absolute surprise for me because I had no idea what it was about (I didn’t even know it was a thing, I saw in a surprise screening.) Still, it was an incredibly pleasant surprise, and while I wasn’t too keen on it at the start, as the movie started to unravel, I liked it more and more.
The plot is essentially a quest in the wild west to bring back two people that have been abducted by what they call in the film “troglodytes.” The people are the deputy sheriff Nick of the small town of Bright Hope (Evan Jonigkeit), and Mrs O’Dwyer (Lili Simmons), Patrick Wilson’s wife. The quest is taken upon by O’Dwyer (Patrick Wilson ) who wobbles along the journey with a broken tibia, the town’s resident smart-ass Brooder (Matthew Fox,) the other deputy Chicory (Richard Jenkins), and the town sheriff Hunt (the one and only Kurt Russell.) All the performances are really good, especially Jenkins, Wilson, and Russell, who really bring their A-game to this quest horror movie.
Oh, by the way, it’s a horror movie. Sort of. More like gore, really, which was great. Really fantastic gore effects, not for the faint of heart, definitely, but brilliantly handled. The film does not glorify or romanticise violence, it plays it really straight, very matter-of-factly, which makes it all the more effective. And they know when to pull out from the violence, when not to show it, making it a much more gripping film.
Now, most of the gore comes from the encounters with the troglodytes, which is a tribe of what the town professor calls un-evolved people. They don’t have a language, only speak through grunts and yells, which bellow from their throats through a bone-like mechanism, and they are cannibals. However, unlike a film like Cannibal Holocaust of The Green Inferno, the cannibalistic elements are very much downplayed, and the violence is not pornographic (though it’s a bit cheeky at times, to the amusement of the people I watched it with) but rather fills its purpose, to disturb and shock, which I was happy about because it’s rare that violence in movies either disturbs or shocks me anymore.
Overall, Bone Tomahawk is also a gorgeous-looking film. The landscape is beautiful, and they play with light and darkness in interesting ways. But the visuals are never the focus, it’s always the story, these four men pursuing their goal. It’s brutal and shocking, and an absolute stunner. Definitely one of the best films I’ve seen this year. I would definitely recommend it, though perhaps not to those who don’t like excessive gore.