Day 6: Bone Tomahawk

Staying true to my assertion that I would rely less heavily on Netflix Roulette, I decided to watch a film I’ve been meaning see for some time. I’ve had every intention of seeing Bone Tomahawk since it came out last year, but it just kept falling off my radar. Then a friend of mine texted me last month and said I needed to see it. I was busy with work at the time, but even when things started to lighten up I still just couldn’t seem to find time for it. Confession: I’m one of the worst people to recommend a movie to (trust me, the irony that I, an author a blog that’s primary functions to find movies to recommend to others, doesn’t himself like recommendations is not lost on me). This probably has the same origins of my preference to give a gift rather than receive one. I constantly live in fear of disappointing the gift-giver. As a child, I even practiced how to hide my disappointment and pretend that I loved a gift, even when it wasn’t the NES that I wanted. So, when it comes to movie recommendations I try to find any excuse I can to avoid seeing the film… simply because I cannot mask my opinions when it comes to movies and, taste being a subjective thing, this can lead to stupid arguments. After (finally) watching Bone Tomahawk I am actively reconsidering my position. I feel a genuine loss that I didn’t watch this movie the second it was recommended. Okay, that may be a bit hyperbolic… but, seriously… this is a great movie!

Plot-wise, Bone Tomahawk, if fairly linear and straightforward. It is set in the Old West (sometime in the late 1800s). It opens with two thieves who stumble upon a burial site. They are attacked and one of the thieves makes it to a small town. His attackers follow… mayhem ensues. Trying to describe this film is a bit tricky. It belongs solidly in the horror camp. That being said, I would argue that the majority of the movie (perhaps even upwards of three-quarters) is a conventional western completely devoid of horror. When I first tried to write this up, I started by stating that it’s “a blend of horror and western elements”, but that’s not entirely accurate. In reality, it starts as a horror, transitions into a western, and then ends solidly as a horror. This may sound like a critique, but it works. The filmmaker (writer-director S. Craig Zahler) finds a way to transition between these genres without making it feel disjointed. I think part of this has to do with the fact that western films (at least the modern westerns) are always somewhat unsettling. The lack of modern medicine, the reliance on violence to settle disputes, and the fear of the elements makes it feel that death is always at hand. Zahler plays with all of these elements to keep the viewer unsettled. And, when it does transition back into horror, it happens so quickly that the viewer doesn’t have a chance to question it… they are simply swept up and have to hold on. Plus, the horror is fairly horrific… the movie is truly gruesome. Plus when the violence occurs it often comes out of nowhere. If you’re one of those people who likse to watch horror movies between their fingers I suggest you watch the last half-an-hour with your hands on your face, because there is often no predicting when things are going to get gory. There are several gags that are going to stick with me for some time. In fact, there is one in particular that I know is going to drift in and out of my head when I’m trying to go to sleep tonight… I’m honestly considering taking some NyQuil to avoid obsessing over it… as I tend to do with particularly gruesome moments in films.

I honestly have zero critiques of the film. It is a bit long for a horror movie (over two hours) but every minute serves a purpose and helps to build the suspense. The film also stars many recognizable actors and while this can sometimes be distracting, in this case they all serve to elevate the film. I guess my only complaint is that one of my favorite horror movie character actors dies far too early in the film (I won’t say more as to not spoil anything), but again, his brief presence give the film adds a note of creditability among fans of horror.

Watch it… now… seriously… right now…

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