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Bone Tomahawk

Directed by S. Craig Zahler

USA, 2015

HOME, 24 February 2016

‘You say goodbye to my wife; I’ll say hello to yours.’

That is the best and altogether a rather neat line in this engrossing Western/horror hybrid. It aids your appreciation to know that it is spoken by a dying man to a widower.

Cowboys and cannibals may seem an unusual combination, but on reflection it makes a kind of sense. This is one of those Westerns where small town life, normalcy, the social order, is disrupted by an ‘Other’, a malignant outsider, a bogeyman. We cannot simply accept the Indian or Native American in that role, not since Dances with Wolves, at least. If anything, the Native Americans were the victims of colonization and genocide – it is no coincidence that Hitler was a big fan of the Western novels of Karl May. Hitler saw an analogy with the Anglo-Saxon settlers’ conquest of America and his proposed war in Eastern Europe. Both aimed for Lebensraum.

Anyway, the role of bogeyman needs to come from somewhere, so why not look to other genres? And the obvious place to look is in horror. Here the bad guys are a race of ashen-skinned cave dwellers that the Indians themselves fear.

A suspenseful western with vividly drawn characters and an atmospheric closing song: you’ll want to listen to Four Doomed Men Ride Out all the way through to the end.