M.L. Miller here! As I go into the tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved. Moving on to Year Six of my year-long Retro-Best in Horror I’m recapping the Countdown beginning officially on October 1, 2015 and going through September 30, 2016. I have posted compilation lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also worked and reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around, and even adding a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So, if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t! Don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!

Released on October 23, 2015. Available On Demand, digital download, and Blu-ray/DVD! Also on Amazon Prime!


Directed by S. Craig Zahler
Written by S. Craig Zahler
Starring Patrick Wilson, Kurt Russell, Matthew Fox, Richard Jenkins, Lili Simmons, David Arquette, Kathryn Morris, Sid Haig, Sean Young, Michael Paré, Zahn McClarnon, Jamie Hector, Geno Segers, Jay Tavare, Jamie Hector, James Tolkan
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While BONE TOMAHAWK could use a few minutes or two trimmed, it’s still a unique and excellent mix of Western and horror with a cast to die for.

When his wife is captured by natives, Arthur O’Dwyer (Patrick Wilson) a cowboy, sets out to find her, despite the fact that he has a broken leg. Accompanying him on this quest is Sheriff Franklin Hunt (Kurt Russell), his noble Second Deputy Chicory (Richard Jenkins), and gentleman gunslinger John Brooder (Matthew Fox). The four cowboys head out to uncharted territory to face a primitive tribe of natives who eat human flesh.

A cannibal Western is territory that’s been sort of charted before in a serious way in RAVENOUS and a less so manner in CANNIBAL: THE MUSICAL, but neither of them have felt as much like a genuine Western as BONE TOMAHAWK. From start to finish, this one feels as if it follows a conventional Western path, with a group of cowboys heading out to undiscovered country to save a damsel from monsters. There’s a knightly quest aspect of this as well, but for the bulk of this film this is simply four very different cowboys trying to get along with one another on horseback.

Now that alone isn’t really that interesting, but considering this is Kurt fucking Russell in a Western, accompanied by not too shabby actors Patrick Wilson and Matthew Fox, with Richard Jenkins added for much needed comic relief as well as more heart than I was expecting, and this all of a sudden becomes a character piece like few others with four fantastic actors bouncing off of one another in a most entertaining way. Simply seeing these four brave the elements with only a horse, some rations, and a whole lot of firepower is going to be cause alone for people to want to see this movie. BONE TOMAHAWK delivers everything I expected as all four give their all making us care for them and root for them through this ordeal. Wilson in particular is great as the wounded cowboy who won’t quit until he finds his wife and Fox is amazing as the cold-blooded killer of the group whose only soft spot seems to be for his own horse. Russell is as amazing and gruff as one would expect, but Jenkins surprised me as he really is the beating heart of this film, providing innocent, though dim-witted observation and naïve loyalty to his sheriff. All in all, this is a quartet of leads that I would follow anywhere.

Once the four get to where they are going, this film veers from being a typical Western in many ways. First and foremost, things get extremely bloody and gory. I was taken aback at the ruthless level of violence this film delivers as the four men bite and scratch for their lives against these savages, described as Troglodytes, who eat human flesh. But cannibalism isn’t their only sin. These creatures are more primate than human, adorned with jewelry stuck into their windpipes to make a roaring sound and some of them even have tusks. These are not your typical feather wearing noble Native American warriors and I’m sure someone somewhere doesn’t like this film for having a heroic white cast take on a hostile indigenous tribe. But while there have been plenty of films casting the Native Americans as virtuous, I found it somewhat refreshing to see the wild west depicted with such savagery. Politics be damned. These are primitive creatures straight out of the darkest corners of hell and their wrath is horrifically vicious. What little glimpses we see of their culture is pretty monstrous to behold. I’m sure there were more civilized and peaceful tribes, but this one isn’t that. And it’s ok to represent tribes in different ways with different qualities—good or bad.

The shift from Western to horror film is not as jarring or trite as something like FROM DUSK TIL DAWN. We are told early on that these natives are monsters, so when they do finally arrive, we sort of know what we are getting. I loved how each of the actors, none of them known for hardcore horror films (sure Russell did THE THING, but that was twenty years ago, and I certainly don’t count Wilson’s INSIDIOUS turn as this level of hardcore), are fully committed here in delivering a solid Western that just happens to end in an utterly horrific manner. The final scenes of this film will make gorehounds cheer and others who are less appreciative of the red stuff wince like hell. Still, even with the monsters they fight and the horrors they endure, the four stars are cowboys all the way through.

This is a unique film that straddles two genres (that Western and horror) and does so with utter respect for both. While it might be a little long in the tooth for some (the film clocks in just a bit over two hours), I wished I could have spent even more time with these amazing actors fighting monsters with six guns and cowboy hats. Russell is amazing and again plays the ultimate cowboy badass. Fox, Wilson, and especially Jenkins are all stellar every second they are on screen. If you’re a Western fan and don’t mind some gruesome gore and some truly horrific monsters, BONE TOMAHAWK is going to be for you. For horror fans, this is probably as perfect a Western horror film you’re going to get. I savored every bloody, gritty minute. Highly, highly recommended.

Click here for the trailer!

THE 2015-2016 COUNTDOWN!

#10 – MASKS
#13 – BODY
#16 – MORGAN
#20 – DECAY
#21 – EMELIE
#23 – HUSH
#28 – BASKIN

M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.

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