Bone Tomahawk is a perfect example of less is more. The film is about four men who go after a clan of cave dwelling cannibalistic Indians who happen to kidnap one of the men’s wife. The film doesn’t show us the Indians apart from a glimpse here and there right till the third act of the movie and in doing so they really increase the amount of tension and fear that we hold in our hearts for what we haven’t been able to see. The director concentrates more on the journey and the hardship that the men face to reach the Indians in the first place let alone face them. The journey is filled with moments of fear and some gut wrenchingly real depiction of injuries.
Arthur (Patrick Wilson) is injured and has a broken Tibia. The film lays stress on his injury by showing multiple scenes wherein either he is sitting still with his feet raised or his wife, Samantha (Lili Simmons) who happens to be a doctor, bandaging him. There is an awkward sex scene between the two showing the extents of his discomfort but also depicting that he is more than willing to go ahead with what he wants to do even with the injury. So when his wife is apparently abducted by the Indians, his decision to go on the perilous journey with a broken leg doesn’t seem that much cliché. Wilson portrays his handicap believably throughout the narrative and never lets you feel any doubt about it. Thus when he falls or falter and you hear a cracking or crunching sound, your heart comes out to your mouth with concern.
The Indians attack the town folks because a gang of marauders while escaping after a shakedown unknowingly desecrate their burial grounds. While the Indians kill one of them instantaneously, the other escapes and arrives at the town a few days later. The Sheriff, Hunt (Kurt Russell) takes him in after a brief altercation and has to shoot him in the leg. Arthur’s wife is summoned to take out the bullet. The Sheriff leaves the doctor, the patient and one of his deputies but the following morning none of them are to be found. Why the Indians kidnap the men is never fully revealed and I belief that’s part of the fun. As they embark on the journey, the team is faced with a perilous journey, Mexican Bandits who take away their rides and the marauding Indians against whom they have to face off in the end. Arthur has his own issues with his broken leg that keeps getting worse with the journey.
Richard Jenkins plays Chicory, the talkative backup Deputy of the Sheriff. He is the source of most of the comedy that is there in this otherwise grim tale. He is not only likeable but also works as a means to understand the mental state of the men. Kurt Russell looks great in that look which he has been carrying on from The Hateful Eight. He is strong and commanding and doesn’t let you take your eyes off him. Matthew Fox is the gentleman Brooder here who has incidentally killed more Indians than all the men combined. He was also the one who fetched Arthur’s wife and so he tags along to redeem what he had unknowingly done. The savages here are scary and unpredictable. It’s so rare these days to find a slasher flick that is unpredictable. Bone Tomahawk is very unpredictable and that is exactly what makes it so very scary. It could give any horror film of the year a run for its money.
The screenplay ensures that the audiences are not able to breathe easy right till the time the end credits roll. There are junctures in this film, when I closed my eyes or just watched it through the cracks of my fingers. The horror here is not that of some ghost or spirit but of living breathing beings who, you are told very early, rape and eat their own mothers. These words keep you unsettled and you see the character of Arthur too taking them in the same light when he brings up the issue once during an altercation with Brooder. The film is slowly paced and it does take a lot of time to get to the point but that’s what sets it apart from the similar fairs of its class. It successfully keeps you rattled and unnerved throughout its runtime which was heartening to watch.
There is very little action but whatever of it is there is brilliantly choreographed. Men out done and outnumbered getting better of their foes is a treat to watch and that’s what Bone Tomahawk gives you. It should also be noted that what it lacks in action, it more than makes up for in gore. Yes! This is one of the goriest films of 2015 and people who have an issue with gore should walk clear out of this one. The fact that it is a serious film and characters we care for are in the line of fire only makes it that much more effective. The way the film is shot also contributes to compounding its effect. The washed away rugged ravines are brilliantly captured as are the dimly lit indoors of the caves. The editing is in keeping with the mood and feel of the film and will keep you interested. The violence is shown in all its glory without any effort to cut or shift focus when the blood flows.
Bone Tomahawk is a film in which two genres come together. While the first half can be sighted as a traditionally talked Western, the second half quickly changes gear into being one of the most gruesome gore-horror affair. There have been films of this type before but I don’t remember any in recent times pulling off the screenplay in a manner as befitting as this. I loved this film from start to finish and if you can fathom violence and gore, this will be a very rewarding watch for you. Highly recommended.