Review: Bone Tomahawk & Book Updates

It’s been a long time since I saw anything quite so harrowing and brilliant as Bone Tomahawk. If you can forgive the title, which at least to my mind doesn’t capture the nuance and subtlety of the film, then there’s hardly anything else to pardon.

The premise is simple. A young and brilliant doctor, Samantha O’Dywer (Lili Simmons), is captured by a group of troglodytes, an inbred sub-culture of cave-dwelling native-Indians who ‘rape and eat their own mothers’. A rescue party is sent to get her back consisting of the town sheriff Franklin Hunt (Kurt Russell), her husband Arthur O’Dwyer (Patrick Wilson), Chicory, the incompetent but lovable deputy played by Richard Jenkins, and the charismatic anti-heroic war-veteran John Brooder (Matthew Fox). Every single cast member turns in a stellar performance, as convincing as the razor-sharp scripting. Matthew Fox particularly shines, redeeming his overly angst-ridden Jack from Lost with a ferociously intense portrayal of a man with dark secrets and a gift for killing – someone trying, for once, to do the right thing by a friend, even though it’s against his nature.

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The character interactions are subtle, poignant and witty – much of the dialogue is laugh-out-loud funny – which makes the horror, when it finally bursts from its suppressed hiding place, all the more visceral and compelling. You care about the characters – and even the ‘damsel in distress’ archetype arguably presented in the character of Samantha O’Dwyer, proves intriguing and non-generic.

What really stands out is that the film is coherent in its artistic vision. With so many films, scenes feel borrowed as though they are assembled on a manufacturing line in Hollywood out of a number of pre-created parts. Bone Tomahawk is consistent throughout in its style and execution, which gives it haunting vividness. Scenes go on for longer than anticipated, but not in the sense that they drag, in the sense that they take their time to really develop a scenario, a character, a feeling of dread. Everything feels as fleshed-out as things might be in a novel, and yet somehow the run-time is not extortionate.

There is an understated pathos which exudes from this narrative: it is deeply realistic and refreshing next to the dramatic, music-heavy climaxes of so much modern cinema. ‘I’m too vain to live a cripple,’ one of the character’s whispers, maimed and sensing the inevitable. This devastating insight into the way honesty manifests when we face death is another reason why Bone Tomahawk triumphs not only over so many other horror films, but over so many other films in general.

I should warn you, there are some scenes in this film which are incredibly disturbing and may scar you. One, in particular, might just bring up your lunch. What’s brilliant about the violence, however, is it is entirely justified and remains secondary to the story, which is one of heroism, and the development of the characters.

I’d welcome a discussion from anyone who’s seen the film, but please, out of respect given it’s quite recently released, refrain from too many spoilers!

Thank you all for reading.

As always, you can follow me @josephwordsmith

Some updates for those who want to be in the know: 

  • In case you missed the news, Seven Dark Stars: Blackness Absolute is now live and soon to appear in online retailer lists worldwide. For those who don’t know what it is, Blackness Absolute is a beautiful hardback edition of Seven Dark Stars featuring 3 additional stories by me plus an awesome competition-winning story by Matthew Blackwell (which you really don’t want to miss – it’s seriously haunting). If you can’t wait 6 – 8 weeks for it to be listed online on your favourite retailer website, you can cheekily pre-order it using the link to my author spotlight.
  • Use the code LULU15 at checkout to get 15% off! 
  • Orifice is starting to gain traction on Amazon. You can get yours from Amazon UK by clicking HERE – If you read it and enjoy it, please don’t forget to leave a review! I’ll love you forever for it! (I might even write you a poem)
  • I’ve just signed a book deal for a major title. More anon, but suffice to say there is an exciting release coming towards the end of the year.

That’s all folks! Thanks again for reading. Until next time, amigos!

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5 thoughts on “Review: Bone Tomahawk & Book Updates

  1. Fantastic review. This is a film I’ve been meaning to view ever since I first heard of it last year. Would you describe the film more as a Western or a Horror film? One of my biggest complaints about horror films is that they sometimes relish in cliches and stereotypes. Seems like this film doesn’t. I’ll hopefully see it soon.

    1. Hey Film Realm, I know exactly what you mean. I think this feels like a western with horror elements. I’d say though that there is almost a sliding transition in the film from Western into Horror, which is a really nice bit of verticality and storytelling. You’re right that horror needs to move away from the cliches! This is definitely very sparse of them aside from the ‘rescue mission’ premise itself (which, lets be honest, rarely gets old unless done badly!) Let me know when you see it so we can have a de-brief!

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