A gripping western-horror hybrid filled with strong characterisation, S. Craig Zahler proves his filmmaking instincts are on point in his debut feature. Yes his films are long and slow, but make no mistake, they are deliberately paced to allow the character work to shine through, which pays off later on.
‘Bone Tomahawk’ is no exception, and the performances are excellent as well. Patrick Wilson and Kurt Russell are typically on form, while Richard Jenkins is outstanding, putting in arguably his finest performance to date. You’ll be rooting for the group to survive every step of their journey into hostile territory.
Even the music is expertly placed. You only hear it once or twice, but the first time is when the characters leave their home to engage the faraway savage enemy; a doom-laden piece that tells us death lies ahead, but for who?
Speaking of death, fans of Zahler’s work know he isn’t shy when it comes to bloodshed, and this is no different. The violence is brutal, sometimes horrifyingly so, and the final act is as magnificent as it is merciless. The cannibal tribe even make unnatural sounds to match their unnatural behaviour, making this an upstanding horror as much as a solid western.
Overall, this is a really efficient piece of filmmaking, and I look forward to what Zahler comes up with next. The writing is great, prizing character development over anything else to get the wheels of the story rolling, while the dread that builds over the two-hour runtime suitably ties a knot in your stomach heading into the final, gory showdown.
Score – 9/10