One From Under the Radar: Bone Tomahawk

2015’s Bone Tomahawk saw Kurt Russell step into spurs and a Stetson for what is a very memorable western. It went under-appreciated at the box-office and isn’t without flaws, but it’s also a unique film with some innovative features and a genre-mixing story.

Kurt Russell stars as Franklin Hunt, the Sheriff of the small town of Bright Hope, alongside Patrick Wilson who plays the heroic and determined cow-poke Arthur O’Dwyer. The plot’s a simple one, it sees a raid on Bright Hope and the abduction of Arthur O’Dwyer’s wife lead to a gruelling trek in pursuit. The Sheriff and Mr. O’Dwyer are joined by a sharp-dressing sharp-shooter and an ageing assistant deputy, together the four set off on a taxing rescue mission. The Sheriff briefs them and lays out the meat of the film’s plot- “we’re making a five day journey in three days, riding long and sleeping the bare minimum”.

What differentiates Bone Tomahawk from the pack is its experimental genre-cocktail story. Described commonly as a ‘Horror Western’, the horror comes in the form of the strange, borderline non-human tribes-people that kidnap Mrs. O’Dwyer and become the object of the film’s chase. Described in the film, by an expert on Indian tribes, as ‘cave dwellers’ and ‘troglodytes,’ the expert who is an Indian himself claims they are very much different to native American tribes and dismissively argues that the Sheriff and his compatriots wouldn’t understand that fact. He turns out to be entirely correct though, the ‘cave dwellers’ have no language and instead communicate with a sort of eerie throat-whistling. This noise foreshadows their attacks and activities in the film and is used effectively as a tension building device.

The atmosphere surrounding the troglodytes is memorable and palpably sinister…

Bone Tomahawk is still definitely more Western than it is Horror, but the films horror elements mix in interestingly and the atmosphere surrounding the troglodytes is memorable and palpably sinister. Some particularly gory moments stand out, as does Kurt Russell and effectively he’s the big name backbone of the film.

Bone Tomahawk2.jpg

Bone Tomahawk’s genre mixing won’t please all audiences, but for fans of Westerns and Horror fans alike, this experiment is a welcome one. The film’s lack of financial success suggests we’re unlikely to see another ‘Horror Western’ in cinemas any time soon and that’s a real shame. Bone Tomahawk isn’t without flaws, it had a relatively low budget and not every performance is as enjoyable as Kurt Russell’s, however what it attempted showed real promise.

By George Storr

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