By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
The closing night film for Fantastic Fest 2015 is a genre hybrid flick that starts off as a classic John Wayne Western and then delves into the shock and awe gruesomeness of a horror movie. Kurt Russell stars as Sheriff Franklin Hunt, the chief law officer who must lead a group of men to rescue a prisoner (David Arquette) and the town doctor (Lili Simmons) from a group of troglodyte cannibals. Joined by his deputy Chicory (Richard Jenkins), the doctor’s injured husband Arthur (Patrick Wilson), and a skilled ex-soldier named John Brooder (Matthew Fox), Hunt not only has to battle time and the elements, but must keep the peace within his group as tensions build during their trip. These problems are the least of their worries, though, as the quartet gets closer to their hellish destination.
Written and directed by S. Craig Zahler, Bone Tomahawk delivers as both a Western and horror film. It has the characters and story elements that make classic Westerns like The Searchers entertaining, but mixed with brutal and shocking violence that left the audience of Fantastic Fest gasping. Zahler balances the light and dark sides of his film quite well. Before diving into the heart of darkness and madness, Zahler effectively builds tension and suspense. His outstanding script features intelligent and witty humor and highly likable characters.
The cast offers superb performances with Kurt Russell comfortably and competently filling the role of John Wayne. Richard Jenkins, who is usually incredible in every role he plays, once again delivers absolute perfection as a Walter Brennan-like character providing some charming comic relief. Matthew Fox exudes coolness as a badass and smartass gunslinger who often ruffles everyone’s feathers, but comes through when offering survival tips and firepower when needed. Last, but not least Patrick Wilson delivers a passionate and charismatic turn as Arthur O’Dwyer, a loving husband desperate and determined to rescue his wife, but hindered by an injured leg that worsens during the course of the trip.
With its awesome characters, taut suspense, and brutally shocking horror, Bone Tomahawk made for a stunning and breathtaking conclusion to Fantastic Fest. As a fan of superbly executed horror and classic American Westerns, I applaud how well Zahler meshed the two genres to deliver a remarkable film that may divide some audiences, but will certainly leave them talking about it.