Western and horror fans are in for a treat with this mash up of “The Searchers’ and “Cannibal Holocaust” which focuses on a posse that heads out to rescue some kidnapped civilians and runs afoul of a nasty tribe of savages.
The story begins on a chilling reminder of how wild the west could be. Two men are observed robbing the innocent travelers they have just killed. Noises alert them to a patrol so they head into the scrub brush to hide out. Unfortunately they run smack dab into a bizarrely painted figure who butchers one of them while the other makes good his escape.
We then get to drop in on our heroes. They include Sheriff Hunt , his novice deputy Chicory, an arrogant ex-soldier, Brooder, and a wounded rancher, Arthur. We also get to meet Arthur’s lovely wife, Samantha, who also happens to be the only one in town with any medical training.
The thief we saw in the first scene arrives and tries to pass himself off as a happy traveler named Buddy. Hunt knows better thanks to a report that this man was seen burying a sack outside of town before making his presence know. Buddy becomes much less friendly when he realizes that the jig is up and makes an ill fated run for it . Hunt proves to be a dead shot , blowing off the front of Buddy’s foot.
That night Samantha is summoned to tend the wound. She is aided by a second deputy . Later we witness an attack on the stable that sees a young man eviscerated by the same savages who killed Buddy’s cohort. The attack is swift, brutal, and gory.
The town wakes up to find that the stable was robbed of several horses and that Buddy, Samantha , and the deputy are gone too. Hunt quickly assembles a posses that includes Chicory and Brooder. He tries to talk Arthur out of coming ,owing to his wounded leg, but that’s not going to happen so he reluctantly brings him along.
They try to gather intelligence from a local scout but the news is bad. He advises they give up and likens these creatures ,whom he calls troglodytes, to a force of nature that can’t be stopped, bargained with , or killed. The scene is reminiscent of Quint describing the shark in ‘Jaws” and imparts the same sense of dread as the men head out.
The next ninety minutes or so are almost pleasant . The men bond as they meet misfortune on the road and share their philosophies. By the time they get to their destination we like these guys and want them to succeed. Then all hell breaks loose.
These natives mean business and it turns out that they don’t just eat their victims, they recycle the bones to make the titular weapon (which is brutally effective). They also use smaller bone structures to
make piercing whistles which usually sound before an attack. It makes for an eerie moment whenever you hear the infernal noise. It sure isn’t a sound I would like to hear if I went camping.
What follows is a harrowing battle of brawn, guts, and wits. It is a gory finish that you feel vested in and will leave you hanging on the edge of your seat. Great stuff that manages to honor the spirit of John Ford while employing the visceral violence of a Tobe Hooper flick.
The cast is wonderful and includes a grizzled Kurt Russell as the Sheriff . His elderly deputy is well played by Richard Jenkins but the finale belongs to Patrick Wilson as the wounded husband who reaches deep down and finds his inner ogre just when he needs it.
Warning: Though unrated this film features one scene of mutilation that is grisly to the extreme and probably would have earned this an NC-17 had it been rated.
Best Line: “You’re prettier than most cows.”
Tom Doty is a columnist for The Floyd County Times.