Once upon a time, I decided to dabble in doing film reviews. I went at it full force and made myself watch horror films for a full month in October 2014. As much as I ended up with sleepless nights and weird dreams, I really enjoyed it.
Though I am far from a great film critic, I do love watching films and since I was sadly redundant for 3 months, it did give me the opportunity to watch as much as I can via Netflix, Amazon Prime and NowTv. I also found myself going to the cinema a lot more.
So I've decided to start my film reviews again. My ‘Frankly Reviews’ will be a mix from old and news. Some will be spoiler free and some spoiler heavy but I will always pre warn you of that at the start.
Without further ado, let’s kick this off with Bone Tomahawk!
Now let be just start of by saying this will be spoiler heavy review. It’s almost impossible for me to talk about my feelings of this film without talking about what happens. If you haven’t seen it and don’t want it spoiled, click away now. If you haven’t seen it but fancy reading about it anyway, be warned it’s not a film for the faint hearted.
Mixing of genres is not exactly a new thing in films, look at From Dusk Till Dawn. That film started off as a crime thriller but then descended into vampire horror with a mix of comedy. Bone Tomahawk is quite similar in that sense, minus the comedy aspect. This 2015 American Western/Horror conception was written and directed by S. Craig Zahler, who is a writer by trade but I believe this is his directional début.
Starring Kurt Russell, who seems to be effective in Western roles (See The Hateful Eight), Patrick Wilson (taking a break from dealing with ghosts and demons), Matthew Fox, Richard Jenkins and Lili Simmonds, as well as a David Arquette staring in a role.
The film is set in the 1890s in the small town of Bright Hope. It kicks off with Arquette slitting some guy’s throat. This is something I’ve seen in films a lot but Bone Tomahawk likes to take it that little bit further and the noises make you shudder. After that wonderful start, Arquette (Purvis) and Sid Haig (Buddy) find themselves encountering a Native American Burial Site. Naturally that doesn’t end up too well for them. Haig finds himself killed and Arquette runs away.
Eleven days later, Purvis arrives in Bright Hope and buries the stolen belongs of the people whose throats he decided to slice open. Eventually after a bit of a brawl with Sheriff Franklin Hunt (Kurt Russell) and back up deputy, Chicory (Richard Jenkins), Purvis finds himself flung in jail. They call upon Lili Simmons as Samantha O’Dwyer to fix Purvis’ leg after he got shot by Sheriff Hunt. Eventually leaving Samantha and Deputy Nick (Evan Jonigkeit) to Purvis, Hunt and Chicory head homewards for the night. This is when shit hits the fan…
Next morning they wake up to find that a stable boy has been murdered and the three in jail have been captured with only an arrow left behind. A local Native American man in the village informs them that the arrow left behind in the jail belongs to a troglodyte clan who live in a place called ‘Valley of the Starving Men’. Do you get where this is going now? Of course the tribe are cannibalistic savages. So a ridiculously small group made up of Arthur (Samantha’s husband played by Patrick Wilson) who has a broken leg, Sheriff Hunt who promises his wife he will come home (ha, I’m sure you will), Chicory and John Brooder (Matthew Fox). The group set off on horses to reclaim their captured friends.
This part of the film feels very much like a Western. A lot of wandering about and general chatting about killing Native Americans… what you tend to get from Westerns really. Personally I am not a massive fan of Westerns and I will admit this part of the film struggled to grab my attention. Don’t get me wrong, the acting from all the leads was fantastic but I don’t know if it was a mix of not being my cup of tea or knowing it was all going to change soon, made me uninterested.
Their journey, of course, doesn't go to plan. They kill strangers who stumble across their camp, get their horses pinched and start fighting amongst each other. Arthur whose leg is already not in a good way manages to make it even worse. So the other three leave him to rest and move on. Finally they make it to the valley and come across our favourite cannibal tribe. The men get injured by a volley of arrows with Brooder eventually gets killed not before having a cigar and a wee cry. Brooder was the character you were meant to dislike, with his womanising and boasting of kills, but like most films, you feel a wee bit sad at his death.
Chicory and Hunt eventually get captured and are imprisoned in the cannibal tribe’s cave. This is when things get…. Messy. Seriously though, I am about to go into detail about what happens and it’s not pretty, so you have been warned for the final time. Turn back and look at picture of cats if you want, I wouldn't blame you.
So… the two men are reunited with Samantha and Nick. Purvis is long gone, last night’s dinner I suppose. Since these cannibals are awful buggers, they decide to make sure you know how truly awful they are. Pulling Nick out from his cage, they let him (for some reason) give Hunt some backstory on Purvis, then they get on it with their torture.
First they strip him because that makes everything look worse and then they start to scalp him alive. Like all the throat slitting malarkey, I've became no stranger to scalping especially thanks to Inglorious Basterds but least with that film the people were dead when they got scalped. In Bone Tomahawk, they scalp poor Nick alive and then shove said scalp into his mouth. To make matters more disgusting, they use a Bone Tomahawk to shove the scalp further into his mouth, breaking his teeth in the process. Even writing this is giving me the dry heave again…
Lastly, they hang the screaming man upside down and start chopping into him from the crotch. It takes a good few chops to tear him apart and it’s an awful sight. I've got a fairly strong stomach but I'm not going to lie, I ended up walking away during this scene. I could still basically see it and hear it but I didn't want to be near it, if you get me. It’s visual and horribly realistic. Like the throat slitting scene at the start, it’s all made worse by the sound effects. From the sound of breaking teeth to the noises coming from poor Nick himself. It’s a tough watch and it sticks with you in an awful way.
So once we have moved on from that loveliness, we find Hunt tricking the cannibals into drinking some poison from a flask, which doesn't go down to well with the tribe’s leader. So he decides to punish Hunt by cutting open his stomach and inserting the hot flask into him. Lovely. They also shoot him. Duh.
During this whole time, Arthur had decided it’s time to wake up and save his bloody wife. Even though he is hobbling about all over the place, he manages to take out many of tribe and arrives just in time to save Hunt from getting shot in his private parts. Eventually killing the leader with the trusty bone tomahawk. Arthur frees his wife and Chicory but Hunt is mortally wounded and decides to stay behind with a shot gun to finish of the last three members of the tribe.
Once you thought, well that’s all the awfulness over, we get one lovely shot as the survivors leave the cave. They walk past two pregnant ladies, who have had their limbs all cut off and are blinded. Why? I don’t bloody know. It’s not like we thought the tribe were awful enough without inserting that bizarre sight into the film but hey ho.
So what is my opinion of this film?
I honestly don’t know. I can’t even decide if I enjoyed it but it did get me talking a lot about it the next day. The scene with poor Nick has been stuck in my brain and I think it will be some time before it leaves my mind. In a way I think the film really was just a lead up to that gory scene, which made me have a lower opinion of it overall.
Many of the reviews surrounding Bone Tomahawk has been highly positive but I'm just conflicted. Yes the acting was fantastic but did it need to go as far as it did. It feels like a long film especially during the first part and the torture scene itself is 2 minutes long.
I am glad that I watched it though I would be hesitant about recommending it to everyone. It’s simply not a film for everyone. You need to be prepared for a long journey and have a strong stomach on you. It’s not a film I will probably ever watch again but it’s left such an impact on me. Which I guess was kind of its point really.
So if you decided to read this and still want to see the film for yourself, it's currently playing in cinemas at the moment.
Let me know if you have seen this film or if you are now planning to?
Till the next time