October 29, 2015 [Bone Tomahawk]

It was all dressed up for Halloween, cowboy hats and loin cloths—but the latter weren't Indians—natives, maybe, but of an underworld deep in clay and dust, skewered with sharp objects, toothy and horned, hunched over until it's too late, you didn't spot it—looked like a big rock or desiccated remains—and it stands up tall and square as granite and impales you through your inner innards.

This is not a movie, it's a homicidal meditation on mistaking someone else's home for yours. Oops, wrong house, but I'll stay anyway. Go ahead, and see what it gets you. Play Cowboy, and watch the Indians draw back to let something older take over—and punish you with the wrath of cast-down devils for trespassing.

I knew that Bone Tomahawk would be a rough ride—after all, who's making a Western these days without raining down judgment on those who settled in and cleared things out with lead and fire? But when even the Native Americans light out, we know this won't be a John Ford spectacle of how the West was won—and of whose bones have to be in the ground for it all to happen. And it runs long for a chase-n-rescue picture, like The Searchers, but that's because this monster needs room for a broad swing of the arm holding what might well be the original jawbone of an ass, capable of slaughtering hordes of Philistines, and tearing to pieces anyone who follows after. These are fiends, but they work meticulously, slowly, in close-up and without mercy. 

I'm not sure if there is anything in this film beyond pain—no metaphor for the risks of the wild, or Wild West cautionary tale. It's difficult to watch, but so perfectly expressed that looking away seems cheating, not the horror-movie self-preserving reasonable retreating that sends our hands to cover our eyes. I kept watching, and can't recall the last time I've endured such bitter toil just to stay until the end.


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