Thursday, January 7, 2016

Bone Tomahawk and All Cheerleaders Die!

“Bone Tomahawk”

I want to start with a few thoughts about film distribution.

The advent of new technology makes it more and more difficult for distributors to actually make any money on the distribution of a film- the costs associated with the production, marketing, and shipping costs alone are problematic but when you throw in the added damage from on-line piracy, some films will just not receive the sort of distribution we once saw for smaller releases. The way things work right now, there are two types of films- the big budget spectacles and the micro-budget “art-house” and exploitation film. The days of a moderately budgeted “working” film are all but dead and we now live in a feast or famine environment in film.

I mention all of this because “Bone Tomahawk” may be a firm example of how the failures of distribution, marketing, and shipping are a direct reflection of the problems currently haunting cinephiles such as myself. Because my guess is that not too many of my Faceless Readers have ever even heard of the movie I’m going to be reviewing. I barely heard about it myself and all credit goes to the “Horror Movie Podcast” for reviewing and recommending this film as one of the best of 2015. Without this word of mouth, “Bone Tomahawk” finds itself doomed to a Walmart bargain shelf and the vague hope that someone finds a little interest in seeing Kurt Russell in a western. And that’s a damned shame, because it may actually be one of the years best films I had a chance to see- and it missed my “Best of List” by merely a few days.

Kurt Russell stars as a frontier sheriff. He’s abrupt, quick to decide, and ultimately good hearted man who wants to serve the community and do what’s right. He arrests and wounds a drifter, not knowing the man is being hunted for the desecration of “sacred land” a small distance away. During the night, the drifter, deputy, and an attending Nurse are kidnapped by an obscure tribe of mountain cannibals that the other tribes fear. The Sheriff gathers up a small posse of men to follow after and hopefully rescue the kidnapped townsfolk- a local veteran in fighting Indians(Matthew Fox, “Lost”), an aging deputy grieving over the loss of his own wife(Richard Jenkins, “Cabin in the Woods”, and the nurses’ wounded husband (Patrick Wilson, “Insidious”).

It’s a straightforward film about four men on a journey. This is about their interaction with one another and why each man feels compelled to make the trek, what they plan to do when they get there, and the obstacles standing in their way. It’s a gritty film and there’s very little joy to be found in the rocky crags and near-desert emptiness of the mountain region- there’s little hope for success and slighter hope in even finding their charges alive. And the film just ramps up the intensity with small squabbles, well-paced dialogue, and moments of sacrifice long before they finally manage to track down and confront the “Troglodyte” tribe responsible.

You’ll notice earlier in that I said I heard about this film through the “Horror Movie Podcast”, and make no mistake- this film gets downright horrific. It’s a moody, dark, gritty, violent, and horrifying little film but that “horror” classification only accounts for a small tenth of the run-time. This movie is a dramatic western long before it’s a traditional horror, but it definitely deserves it’s spot on the “Horror” wall with one act that is so brutal and monstrous that I nearly turned my head from the gruesomeness.

5 out of 5.

“Cheerleaders Must Die”

I didn’t expect it from this film. I mean, I should have sort of expected something. This is a collaborative effort from directors Lucky McKee (“The Woman”) and Chris Sivertson (“The Lost”) and is currently streaming on Netflix. And I should’ve known that a film directed by two men who have repeatedly adapted material from Jack Ketchum wouldn’t just come on straight for a horror comedy, but that was what I was expecting. A couple of giggles, a couple of laughs, a couple of dark moments, and a big twist at the end to reveal that Sidney herself would be the killer. In other words, I was expecting this movie to be another “I Know What You Did… “ knock off and I was genuinely surprised when the film took a sudden turn midway through and became something far different.

This is basically “Heathers” meets “The Craft” by way of “Lifeforce”- a rebellious teen joins the High School Cheerleader squad in order to get some measure of revenge on the Football Captain and school star. Her plans lead to some unfortunate events that result in the squad and herself being resurrected from death as vampiric creatures of some sort. Despite the cheesy sounding plot, the film packs a hell of a cruel punch as characters reveal themselves to be much more than the caricatures they portray much earlier in the film.

3.5 out of 5 for this highly entertaining flick.

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