Review: Bone Tomahawk

“A wild western, horror movie with cannibals and comedy?.. Sounds great”, I thought, when doing my standard pre-viewing research online. And as the film got going I couldn’t help but draw immediate parallels with some of Mr Tarantino’s feature length films; the cinematography, the old western town charmingly and possibly somewhat ironically named ‘Bright Hope’, the saloon bar with the drunken pianist asleep at the piano, the distinctive characters embracing an almost clichéd version of themselves, all set the tone for an immediately intriguing film which kept my attention firmly absorbed for the little-over 2 hours of its duration.

I was aware that there was to be violence in this film and it began with the opening scene of a sleeping westerner getting awoken by his throat being sliced by a robber. A scene which left certainly myself, and I imagine all of the audience as well, recoiling back into our seats with a grimacing expression, an expression which would become a frequently adopted pose throughout the film, I came to realise. The violence was all done with a certain element of tongue-in-cheek, though, which tinged the scenes with overtones of dark, slapstick comedy.

Without wishing to spoil the enjoyment of this fun film for any reader wishing to go see it, I don’t think I’m giving too much away by revealing that the premise is based around the abduction of some of the residents of the town; the, of course, very beautiful wife of the town doctor, the town jailor and the banged-up drifter who just happened to upset the local law-enforcement the night before, and the subsequent rescue mission to retrieve them from an unknown tribe of savages, referred to as troglodytes by a native American in the early stages of the film.

Craig Zahler, the director and writer of Bone Tomahawk, shot the entire film in just 21 days which gives the film a definite sense of forward momentum throughout. But what I liked about the film was the slowed-down pace adopted at times when we just get to enjoy Kurt Russell, who plays the Sheriff of Bright Hope, and the other characters’ idiosyncratic ways as they navigate their way through the obstacles and pitfalls of the wild western landscapes to the aid of the abductees. The elusive cannibal-savage-abductors are shown very little throughout the large part of the film which gives them a myth like guise and a sense of suspense to the film… until we reach the cave of their dwelling. Be prepared for genuine horror and gore infused with dark comedy portrayed by beguiling and charismatic characters.

Still showing at Broadway cinema until 3rd March – tickets available online

Review by James Toomey

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