When the western town of Bright Hope suffers an Indian attack late in the nineteenth century, Sheriff Hunt (Kurt Russell) rides out with a posse to rescue the people who have been abducted. They also stole a bunch of horses that had been kept at the corral, viciously killing the young livestock worker in the process. Sheriff Hunt’s jail has also been cleared out–his deputy, the local nurse (Lili Simmons) and a prisoner they had in a cell (whom the nurse was taking care of) are all gone. Examining the arrows and other weapons left at the scene, Hunt doesn’t recognize the tribe that attacked them. But when he consults with an expert (Zahn McClarnon), Hunt gets a nasty surprise.
It turns out that the town had been attacked by a group of backwards cave dwellers who still live as if they’re in the Stone Age. Shunned by the other Indian tribes, this group of cave dwellers are a bunch of savage cannibals–which is why they abducted the people; they are merely food to be eaten. Getting a location of the cave dwellers from the expert, Hunt quickly sets up a search party that consists of himself, his reserve deputy Chicory (well-played by Richard Jenkins), Arthur (Patrick Wilson, who gives another good performance), whose wife was abducted by the cave dwellers, and a gunman named Brooder (Matthew Fox, from Lost, who is superb here).
Bone Tomahawk is a fantastic blend of the old west with horror. As a kid I used to read such weird western stories as Jonah Hex, which offered a regular dose of the supernatural and cowboys, so this movie was right in my wheelhouse. And to add to the fact that it’s got a great cast, in addition to those already mentioned there’s also David Arquette and Sid Haig as a pair of deadly robbers who both shine in an early scene, as well as the always great Kathryn Morris (best known from the series Cold Case), who stars here as Hunt’s loving wife.
Gore-hounds expecting a blood-soaked horror flick may be let down, as Bone Tomahawk moves at a stately, slow-burn pace, letting you get to know its characters before the bloody confrontation with the cave dwellers. And on the flip side, western fans may well be turned off by the film’s extreme gore. But if you’re looking for a gripping, original story with fully developed characters that will have you on your seat for the better part of the film, then you may well want to give Bone Tomahawk a shot. It’s highly recommended.