The Western is a genre that I’m really fairly unversed in. My knowledge only spans recent years of cinema and other than ‘Django Unchained’ amongst these films I wouldn’t say that there were any that I really enjoyed a lot. There seemed to be quite a lot of buzz surrounding ‘Bone Tomahawk’ though so it certainly had my attention. The only cinema that was showing it where I live was a small independent one and there was only one screening of it per day. I made sure that I got to see this movie though and I’m so happy I made the effort because what a film it is!
From first time director S. Craig Zahler, ‘Bone Tomahawk’ is a mash up of a western and a horror film. However, don’t think that this mash up is to compensate a lack of a strong individual horror or western. Both elements are incredibly strong and they combine together effortlessly, in a way that another recent film which was a mash up of genres, ‘Pride + Prejudice + Zombies’ didn’t work as well. The film has a wonderful cast who portray a wide range of great characters. Kurt Russell has stepped straight out of Quentin Tarantino’s latest western, ‘The Hateful Eight’ into Zahler’s even more bloody tale of the wild wild west here, with epic mustache still intact. Russell leads the cast here as Sheriff Franklin Hunt, a man who clearly runs his town and Russell runs this film with a commanding lead performance. The rest of the towns, ‘Bright Hope’, residents are all engaging and entertaining to watch all having their own quirks or personalities. The three other main characters are played by Matthew Fox (John Brooder), Patrick Wilson (Arthur O’Dwyer) & Richard Jenkins (Chicory) and with Russell they make up the core of this film. All of their performances are impressive and they have great chemistry. Other than Russell, Jenkins stands out. His character offered much of the comic relief in the movie, however this is done is such believable ways and thanks to Jenkins’s performance Chicory keeps the pace of the film moving along nicely. Without this injection of comedy I’d imagine that the film could have dragged but not for one second did the film suffer from any pacing issues. My only compliant about the cast or characters, and actually my only complaint about the film as a whole, was Lili Simmons (Samantha O’Dwyer). Her character has some more muted responses to things which I thought given the situations would have warranted more extreme ones. Whether this was a fault of the writing or performance it’s the only issue in an otherwise perfect element to the film.
The film is certainly one part western and one part horror. Horror films are often renowned for their terrifying scores, however ‘Bone Tomahawk’ is left largely unscored. This worked very well though, it helped to transpire the loneliness of certain characters, the vastness of the landscape and often the fear that was being experienced. I often find that no music can be scarier than a big and booming score. The film is terrifying, not in a way you are scared in a movie about ghosts or demons but in a very real sense. You feel so sorry for the characters involved here and you quickly begin to appreciate the sheer terror of the situation. There are particular moments which will send shivers up your spine and others will make you gasp and look away. However you’ll have to cover your ears too if you want to escape this horror as its sounds are often as bad as its sights. Prepare yourself for some gruesome scenes, one scene in particular is probably the most brutal thing I’ve seen in a film but it’s relevant to the story and contributes to the horror of the film. This isn’t a film which is violent for the sake of the being violent but instead it always furthers the story or helps to build atmosphere.
If it hadn’t been for ‘The Hateful Eight’ last month I’d be stating how ‘Bone Tomahawk’ is easily the best western I’ve ever seen, still it’s pretty close though. I can’t quite believe that this is a directorial debut, S. Craig Zahler has a fantastic career ahead of him but I’d honeslty be surprised if he ever tops this. ‘Bone Tomahawk’ is one of the best films of the year, it will make you laugh, wince and gasp thanks to wonderful acting, writing and direction. It’s inspired me to explore the genre of the western in much more detail however, I seriously doubt any other western will impress me as much.
Rating – 9/10
Question: What’s your favourite Western?
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