Bone Tomahawk Review

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.

The Hateful Eight Review

Okay, I’m a few days late to this one. It’s been a hard week of university work. And seeing as everyone else is still concerned over Star Wars VII, I think I deserved a little time off. But I’m back now, with The Hateful Eight.

The Hateful Eight stars Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Demian Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen and Bruce Dern and is written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. The film follows The Hangman (Russell) who is escorting The Prisoner (Leigh) to claim a bounty reward. They are snowed in a cabin with six other characters, where one character is lying in wait to spring The Prisoner free.

As usual, the acting is great. The eight main players are good, with Walton Goggins as The Sheriff and Bruce Dern as The Confederate being my favourites. Tarantino also gets amazing work out of the smaller roles, populated by Channing Tatum and Zoe Bell. Tarantino is known for getting actors to perform at their peak level, and they’re all doing first-class work.

Tarantino writes the script and while he still includes his usual screenwriting quirks, he manages to add some new features to his already over-stuffed screenplay. Gone are the overt references to genre cinema, instead we get a really tense, really moody and really thought-out film where the silences are just as good to listen to as the ten minute long conversations and Jackson soliloquies. Tarantino even jumps in and has some dialogue himself, narrating events after the film’s interval, and in between chapters.

The set-up could easily be thought of as Reservoir Dogs in a Western, but it’s a lot more complex than that. In Reservoir Dogs, we all know who the liar is, but in The Hateful Eight, Tarantino manages to keep it quiet until the very last minutes. Lines are drawn in the snowed-in cabin that the characters have settled in, with the barriers being Union vs. Confederacy, black vs. white and in the end, whether you’re a decent human being or not. Tarantino draws the audience in on these encounters, to the point where we’re pointing fingers in our mind, trying to figure out who the culprit is. It’s a film that you’ll probably want to watch twice just to see if you find all the clues that the director leaves out for us.

Ennio Morricone, famed composer of several Spaghetti Westerns, takes music duties and gives us one of most suspenseful soundtracks of all time. Taking cues from his tracks that didn’t make it into John Carpenter’s 1982 The Thing as well as reusing a track from The Exorcist II, Morricone’s music choices seem to be horror directed, which ends up being the major factor that makes the film so tense and enjoyable to watch. The film could almost be a companion piece to The Thing, as both feature Kurt Russell, Morricone, snow and clawing sense that nobody says who they really are.

The film starts with a beautiful long shot of snow-covered Wyoming. We see a small dot in the distance, a station wagon, and as it gets closer, Morricone’s music comes in and just like Jed Kurzel did with last year’s Macbeth, the music adds a tremendous amount to the scene.

Just like all of Tarantino’s work, the film has problems in its length. While it was novel to have an interval in the middle and definitely added to the second half of the film, it’s the first half of the film that really drags it’s feet. We spend half an hour with Russell, Jackson and Leigh (two chapters out of six) before we even get to the main stage of the film. And while some of Tarantino’s dialogue is good to listen to, I have to admit, it’s stuff that we’ve all really seen before and heard it better in his other films. But apart from that, there really is no other problems with the film.

When I first saw the trailer for The Hateful Eight, I wasn’t too thrilled. I thought that Tarantino had had his time and that this one wouldn’t be anywhere near as good as his older filmography. But soon enough, all my reservations were swept aside and I was watching one of Tarantino’s best films.

Score: 8/10 The score is pretty appropriate for the film. But in all seriousness, it’s been a long time that I’ve seen a film so suspenseful.

Now that you’ve finished The Hateful Eight review, why don’t you come look at the review of the rest of Tarantino’s films?