DirectorS. Craig Zahler
Release Date(s)2015 (December 29, 2015)
Studio(s)Caliber Media Company (RLJ Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: C+
S. Craig Zahlder's seminal horror western Bone Tomahawk was released in 2015 to widespread acclaim. Taking place in the late 1800s, the story concerns the small town of Bright Hope. After their burial ground is desecrated, cannibalistic troglodytes sneak into the town at night and abscond with a local woman named Samantha (Lili Simmons). Her husband Arthur (Patrick Wilson), even with a broken leg, means to take off on horseback to find her. Coming with him is sheriff Hunt (Kurt Russell), his deputy Chicory (Richard Jenkins), and a local named John Brooder (Matthew Fox), a man whose had experience with these beasts. The four make their trek across open land with the best of intentions, finding trouble both outside and within the group.
Though Bone Tomahawk is known primarily for its second act, which contains a sequence that's so brutal it makes your hair stand on end, many overlook its other qualities, including its performances, dialogue, and look. Kurt Russell is terrific as always, but it's Richard Jenkins and Matthew Fox who truly steal the show. It's part and parcel as to why the film is so effective; the film isn't about characters, it's about people. These are breathing, flesh-and-blood men and women who don't at all feel confined by the trappings of the screenplay. The dialogue, which is Deadwood like in its cadence and variety, is also a pleasure to listen to. Meanwhile, the look of the film is outstanding. It has a warm, natural look at the beginning, but as the hunt continues, the landscape becomes more and more desolate and film's look becomes dry and cold—the antithesis of what's come before.
The biggest critique of the film is its length, which in fairness, is many viewers wanting to get to a conclusion sooner because of how effective the story is. It's simply great drama, but spending time with these characters in various situations only heightens our hope of a triumphant outcome. Above all else, Bone Tomahawk successfully mixes a western aesthetic with horror elements without them ever feeling like opposites. In short, it's a terrific, but tough, film.
Bone Tomahawk was shot digitally with RED Epic Dragon cameras in the Redcode RAW format with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The Blu-ray from RLJ Entertainment features a lovely presentation, soaking in detail that could only be improved by a UHD release. Blacks are inky deep, aiding the many nighttime scenes as the characters stare into the shadows looking for potential attackers. The color palette offers a nice variety of tans and browns, as well as greens and reds, all the end result of a strong grade. However, saturation is never overblown as skin tones still appear natural. Contrast and brightness levels are ideal and the overall image is stable and clean.
The audio is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD with optional subtitles in English SDH. This is not a soundtrack that really shows off a sound system's range of capabilities, but the mix itself is immersive nonetheless. Atmospherics are abound, particularly in the open plains as the men camp, both during the day and at night. Dialogue exchanges are clear and the sparse score is mixed into the proceedings well without overpowering the other elements. No real issues here either, just a nice aural experience that shows restraint, but efficiency.
The following extras are also included, all in HD:
- The Making of Bone Tomahawk (10:04)
- Deleted Scene (2:30)
- Fantastic Fest Q&A with the Director and Cast (34:40)
- Poster Gallery (7 in all)
- Theatrical Trailer (2:37)
The making of is a brief overview of the genesis of Bone Tomahawk, but features interviews with all of the main cast and crew and delves into how the film was made under Zahler's direction. The deleted scene is more of an extended ending in which Chicory, Arthur, and Samantha rest for the night by the campfire as Chicory proclaims Arthur to be the new sheriff before Arthur attempts to read Samantha the “poem” from days before. The Q&A features S. Craig Zahler, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox, Richard Jenkins, producer Dallas Sonnier, and moderator Tim League discussing the film in front of a live audience, taking questions and answering them in a lighthearted manner. The poster gallery features all of the posters for the film, including separate character posters. The disc also opens with trailers for Dark Was the Night, Pay the Ghost, and Odd Thomas.
If one can handle some of its heavier elements, Bone Tomahawk can prove to be an effective experience for the uninitiated. S. Craig Zahler has proven himself to be a filmmaker with a distinct vision, consequently making Brawl in Cell Block 99 and Dragged Across Concrete soon after. As for the Blu-ray of Bone Tomahawk, it's a release well worth the purchase, which includes an excellent A/V presentation and slightly above average extras.
– Tim Salmons