Bone Tomahawk was the last movie I saw in 2016 and it was a goddamned mistake to do so. I should’ve picked something fun, sentimental or positive to watch, but I ended that awful year with a movie so fucking brutal and timely that it made Mariah Carey’s Times Square performance a cake walk (that shit was still embarrassing though). Bone Tomahawk isn’t the horror-western we needed, but the one we deserved. And if you’re brave enough to see it through, it will provide unshakable payback with haunting reverberations.
I won’t say much about the film because spoilers of any kind would ruin the film, but what S. Craig Zahler does is recreate the good and the bad of the West in grit, grime and blood. The townsfolk in this world are stupid and narrow-minded. They stumble and poke in the dark without any grasp of the coming consequences, and yet they still cling onto the old notions that all Injuns are ‘savages’. Like many a horror movie, the predicaments that befall the residents of Bright Hope are all thanks to some dumbass who had it coming, and like falling dominoes, things come into place and a team is assembled to rescue some of the town’s kidnapped citizens from a mysterious group of cave dwellers that even other Native Americans would never want to deal with. Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Richard Jenkins and even Matthew Fox turn in performances of great care and realism. This is especially so from Fox, who portrays an erudite sharp-shooter whose racism against Native Americans makes him utterly reprehensible throughout the film.
Nevertheless, it’s really the slow-burn build-up to the film’s gut-wrenching final third that will define how you’ll view Bone Tomahawk. Nothing prepared me and my GF for what would happen and it is sudden, violent and fearsome. This is especially the case for my GF who is a much more seasoned horror fan compared to me, and she came away from the film in utter disgust. This film pulls no punches, and what ever type of horror fan you are, I’m sure that you’ll walk away from Bone Tomahawk with it’s imprint on you for days to come. It’s rare to see the West as a living nightmare, but it’s like what Samantha said in the film, “This is why frontier life is so difficult. Not because of the Indians or the elements but because of the idiots.”