A brutally unflinching horror hybrid scalps the streaming charts

bone tomahawk
via RLJ Entertainment

Anyone familiar with the work of writer and director S. Craig Zahler will be fully aware that he doesn’t make movies for the faint of heart, even though he’s only got three features to his name. Kicking off his behind-the-camera career with one hell of a statement, 2015’s Bone Tomahawk is an uncompromisingly brutal spin on the old West.

On the surface, the plot appears to follow a well-worn template that’s been baked into the DNA of cinema for decades, with Kurt Russell (accompanied by a glorious mustache) playing a grizzled gunslinger who rounds up a disparate band of cohorts to trek into the scorched plains in an effort to rescue a captured trio from a cave-dwelling band of savage.

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Unfortunately for those of a weaker disposition, though, things get gradually more violent and insane once the posse reaches its destination, with Zahler refusing to hold back on the blood, guts, and gore. We’ve seen plenty of films blend the Western with other genres, but few have proven to be quite as distinct as Bone Tomahawk, and that’s intended as a compliment.

Prime Video subscribers are made of stern stuff, though, after enough subscribers opted to revisit the haunting tale to propel it onto the platform’s most-watched chart, as per FlixPatrol. It’ll definitely make you queasy at least once during the third act, but the widespread critical acclaim to have greeted Bone Tomahawk signifies that there’s much more going on under the surface than you’d expect from a cannibalistic tale of locals versus lurkers.

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Scott Campbell

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