Zahler’s sophomore feature has a plot similar to John Ford’s genre pinnacle The Searchers, with added chills that push it into the horror camp. When town doctor Samantha (Lili Simmons) is snatched in the night by a particularly brutal breed of savages, it’s up to local Sheriff Franklin Hunt (Kurt Russell), his dim-witted but well meaning back-up deputy Chicory (Richard Jenkins) and surly Indian killing expert Brooder (Matthew Fox) to track her down and bring her back unharmed. Distraught at the thought of his wife being among a tribe of feral cannibals, husband Arthur (Patrick Wilson) is determined to join the search party too, despite suffering from a broken leg. As the quartet close in on their goal, it’s not long before things take a turn for the worst.
Bone Tomahawk borrows from more nail-biting genres to keep the Western alive, resulting in a film that’s much more than vistas, dust and horses. Kurt Russell gets his money’s worth out of that bushy tash he grew for Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, in a more rounded role that explores what it means to be a good man in a new world without rules. Richard Jenkins’ Chicory is reminiscent of the well meaning old timer that might follow John Wayne or the Man With No Name around the frontier. A character archetype that helps to underpin the film’s Western roots, especially when things go south. Speaking of which, the savages on show here are truly savage; verging on almost science fiction levels of inhuman activity and acts of raw brutality that you probably won’t forget in a hurry. Hardcore cinephiles may sneer at the film’s more graphic moments of brutality but it’s hard to deny the fact it gives this often dismissed genre a little more bite.