<Todd>’s review published on Letterboxd:
"If you want to question my morals... do it later." -John Brooder,
Was anyone else thinking about how disgusting everyone in this movie must have smelled?
In Bone Tomahawk, four men that represent a diverse crew ranging from old white man to slightly less old white man, are on route to kill a group of savage Native Americans that even Native Americans refer to as troglodytes (so it's not racist to root for their death). The troglodytes have kidnapped a deputy, a prisoner who fucked with their burial ground, and a hot lady (nurse, cowboy's wife) so that you can spend most of the film worrying about her getting raped. After a long, gross journey of bro-fighting, a final gruesome showdown determines the life chances of each of our characters and the almost mystical horror villains.
Performances, practical effects, costuming and score are the strength of this film. Matthew Fox, who I normally don't notice, is exceptional as the prideful gunslinger John. In addition, Lili Simmons is fantastic as the kidnapped Samantha. Zahler is great at writing concepts, monologues and interesting scenarios. Toward the beginning of the film you see Arthur and Samantha having sex with her on top (silhouette nudity). In most films this is the sex scene money shot but Zahler has the husband get uncomfortable and say "let's do this the right way" and then gets on top. I bring it up because that's funny (referencing missionary position and the more restrictive sex practices of the late 1800s) and clever and I like it. The reason I get confused about the worship for Zahler (a small percentage of his fans are creepy mouth-breathers) is that I don't think Zahler is an especially good writer of interactive dialogue and he has a self-editing problem. People will write this off by saying he is a novelist first and foremost or by discussing his approach being about art above all else but that's just bullshit people say to support something they already like. A lot of this dialogue would be rough without seasoned actors adding dimension. The third act of this film is, for me, the best film-making of this budding auteur's film career. The enemies are terrifying, the use of space and time is outstanding, and the tension is real.
Bone Tomahawk is great fun for people that can handle gruesome and gritty films that pull no punches. That considered, perhaps I'm just dead inside/watch too much horror, but I think people exaggerate how intense these Zahler films are. Honestly, other than one part in Cell Block 99, and his over-the-top racist edgelord screed of an opening act in Dragged Across Concrete, I just find Zahler to be a fairly straightforward dude that writes intense films but nothing groundbreaking. I think he's good.
Yes, you should watch this...it's fantastic. Let's just wait before we designate Zahler the king of all cinema. Also, that credits song rocks.