Film review: Bone Tomahawk (18)

Kurt Russell stars in Bone Tomahawk.

Kurt Russell stars in Bone Tomahawk.

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One of the most inventive Westerns of recent vintage is also arguably the most outlandishly visceral, for Bone Tomahawk morphs from slow-moving horse opera to nerve-shattering, blood-spattering horror.

Ostensibly a rescue mission involving a quartet of cowboys on the trail of mysterious Indians that stole away a doctor’s wife and a young boy, this leisurely-paced study of tenacity and honour takes a sideways veer into eye-watering terror.

Kurt Russell is Sheriff Hunt; a no-nonsense veteran lawman from a small town who believes his odyssey will be short, if violent. But he faces a shadowy foe: a cursed bloodline of cannibal troglodytes that have no understanding of 19th century humanity.

Less a film about the Wild West than the Primeval West, Bone Tomahawk is an alternative Western that embraces otherworldly, unnatural horror. A hugely original take on a classic genre but with a bloody, bone-crunching twist, it ventures into previously uncharted territory. Just like its posse of unprepared victims.

Laced with one-liners, vintage vernacular and pain, it boasts elements of The Evil Dead and hints at the dark myths of the Old West. This is not cowboys versus redskins but cowboys versus cavemen.

Directed and co-written by S Craig Zahler, who confidently presents his posse – Russell, Matthew Fox, Patrick Wilson and Richard Jenkins – as more than just fall guys awaiting a messy demise, this is a genre-busting, gruesome, brutal and stomach-turning journey into the heart of darkness.

And one set-piece sequence will test the mettle of even the hardiest horror junkie.

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