Bone Tomahawk



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Whether a comment on the paranoia of foreign invasion or an exercise in genre conventions, S. Craig Zahler’s debut, Bone Tomahawk (2015) more than earned its immediate cult status on its release. Equally revelled in as much as it was reviled for its gruesome and unflinching imagery, the film delivers the infamy of a video nasty shackled to the traditions of classic cinema with obvious nods to, on the one hand, John Ford’s The Searchers and, on the other, Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust. The film’s savage eye is often elevated by its tenderness and sincere approach to character delivered by performances of the highest calibre.

In its presentation of the western frontier the film is a physical ordeal – while one character limps on another is there to remind you of what awaits them at the end of their journey. This Devil’s Advocate sets out on a similar journey to study Zahler’s hybrid approach by exploring the balance of arthouse, classical and exploitation cinema; the history of violence (onscreen and off) as well as the wider historical and cultural significances such as modern myth and how the film reflects humanity and the current political climate.

Author Information

Rich Johnson writes for Fangoria, Rue Morgue, Little White Lies, We Belong Dead, Diabolique Magazine and Second Sight Films. A lecturer in graphic design and film studies, he also provides further commentary and film analysis as a podcaster. Read, listen and follow via