A simple and serious tale of mystery and revenge set in the wild west with a horror movie motif, rises above all other genre mashups and even stands alone as both a horror film and a western.
Plot - Bone Tomahawk Review
A town faces a murder, stolen horses and two abductions following a stranger's visit to town. This puts into a motion a ragtag rescue party led by the sheriff (played by Kurt Russell). The party, consisting of Hunt the sheriff, Arthur, husband of one of the abducted, Chicory the Deputy and local upper class citizen and former Indian hunter, Brooder, who first talk to local native guide, called the "professor," about the arrow left behind at the murder scene as he links the arrow to a very primitive clan. Hunt learns of the clan's territory and sets out. The mystery doesn't lie in the "whodunnit" but what type of people who did it, are. They've only been seen very briefly, so the viewer's expectations are high and tense for the next encounter.
Bone Tomahawk is shot beautifully, from the intricate dust and sagebrush filled land in close up shots, with crumbling hills of rock behind them, to the open shots viewed from a wide angle as the crew hurriedly traverses this baron land. As with many westerns, there is most definitely an orange hue of a filter used to convey the unrelenting heat and even exaggerate the browns of the terrain. It works well here as the entire journey is dry, dirty, dusty and uncomfortable.
Bone Tomahawk's music is effective in that it is almost entirely non-existent. The sounds of the ammo loading into a revolver or repeater, the brush rustling, rocks falling and the howl of the cannibal tribe are all accentuated because of the lack of music. It also, in a bit of irony, makes the scenes more intense. There are no musical signals before a distressful situation, or any artificial tension. Character's stop, look, listen, and react to any subtle sound, and as the viewer, you'll be doing the same.
Performance - Bone Tomahawk Review
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Bone Tomahawk, especially considering its subject matter, is the talent assembled. Kurt Russell was born to act in westerns, and he's no different here. Patrick Wilson, playing the injured husband in search of his abducted wife is solid, but it's Grooder, played by Matthew Fox and RIchard Jenikins' deputy Chicory that give the most important performances. Both are nuanced in their delivery, adding to their solid characterization from the writing. You root for them for opposite reasons, and both play a part in the consciousnesses of the rescue party during their trek and inevitable confrontation.
Bone Tomahawk Review Reflection
Bone Tomahawk gets just about everything right. Its use of gore is effective and shocking, the lack of a real musical score creates more tension, and some of the best performances you'll see in a horror film can be found throughout the film. If you're a fan of horror or the western genres, this movie won't disappoint, and if you like both, all the better.