I review the big films. I review the small films. I review films I or indeed no one else had a passing interest in because I feel I have to. And then we get to the films that I like the look of. The trailer for Bone Tomahawk had piqued my interest back when I first saw it in January, so how does the whole film do?
Bone Tomahawk stars Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox, Richard Jenkins and Lili Simmons and is directed by S. Craig Zahler. The film follows Sherrif Franklin Hunt (Russell) in the Old West, who leads a posse to save Arthur Dwyer’s (Wilson) wife Samantha (Simmons) from a renegade tribe.
There hasn’t been a film to make me squirm in my seat like Bone Tomahawk did. I’m a fan of ultra-violence, things like The Raid 2, Only God Forgives, even to the really explicit stuff like A Clockwork Orange, I can stomach it. Bone Tomahawk almost lost me. The opening shot is of someone getting their throat cut open, it sets the mood for the rest of the film. The sound is what makes it so disturbing. While we do get a fair few shots of guts spilling out of people or bones poking through skin, the worst ones are the moments where we just hear the squelches and crunches of someone’s body being ripped apart.
One scene in particular made me look away from the screen, something I haven’t done since probably Sicario. I’ve been trying to think of how to describe it without it coming across as gratuitous, but I’m drawing a blank every time. Just think The Texas Chainsaw Massacre turned up to eleven and you’re on the right track. All the injuries are achieved with practical effects and the filmmakers just let loose with the gruesomeness. The film earns it’s 18 certificate and wears it proudly on its blood-covered chest.
Don’t think that blood and guts is all the film has to offer. The script is very funny, with the humour being very dark. I would compare it to Tarantino’s better work (without the genre styling’s, which is a point in Bone Tomahawk‘s favour) or something like Calvary. The character’s are cynical and know that death awaits them at every turn and so they joke to keep themselves going against insurmountable odds. They only character who seems to be happy throughout the film is an almost unrecognisable Richard Jenkins as the backup deputy Chicory. His rambling tales and quizzical ponderings over life’s mysteries are fun to listen to, and a fair few had the entire screening laughing. He discusses everything from why Mexican food is the best in the world to trying to figure out how to read in the bath without getting the book wet.
The bad guys are hardly seen throughout the film, only really shown until the very end. Early on, once Samantha Dwyer has been abducted, Sherriff Hunt is informed by The Professor, a Native American who lives in his town, that the people who abducted her are, to quote, “…not Native American. They are hardly human.” He describes them as Troglodytes, cave men who have a taste for human flesh. When the film does focus in on them, they have this otherworldliness about them. They shrug off point blank gunfire, they have tusks growing out of their cheeks and their battle-cries….damn those battle-cries. It made my skin crawl every time they tipped their head to the sky and roared. If this film doesn’t get nominated for make-up/costume and sound design at next year’s Oscars then it will be a shame, because I haven’t seen anything like the Troglodytes in recent memory.
The run time is over two hours, but I can’t think of anything I would want to cut. I like my films short, but Bone Tomahawk never felt like a chore to watch.
A couple of weeks ago, I watched Point Break. When I left the cinema, I was ready to give up. That film left such a sour taste that I all I wanted in that moment was to give up reviewing films. Films like Bone Tomahawk remind me why I go to the movies every week and why I write my reviews. For those who aren’t too bothered by gore, this is your film.
Score: 10/10 Not one for the squeamish, but will become a cult classic.