Bone Tomahawk Blu-ray Review

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An awesome film that defies expectation and is gaining awards, recognition, plaudits and fame, wherever it is seen

by Simon Crust Jan 31, 2016 at 7:38 AM

  • Movies review


    Bone Tomahawk Blu-ray Review

    Film Review

    This is why frontier life is so difficult. Not because of the Indians or the elements, but because of the idiots!

    Multi-cross genre movies are very rare beasts; indeed there is only one that I would consider that really works – Brotherhood of the Wolf (Le Pacte des Loups 2001) which skilfully blends romance, adventure, martial arts and horror. There is now, however, another contender from western author and first time movie director S. Craig Mahler. Bone Tomahawk is tiny budgeted, was shot in 21 days and features a host of familiar faces including Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson and Matthew Fox. The film manages to blend a western with horror, comedy and character drama, that forms a near perfect whole. Being shot independently with a scant theatrical release, the film has still managed to raise eyebrows and esteem whenever it is shown, becoming a slow boiling release that everyone ought to see. The story, itself, which caters to every western trope, boils down to a very simple plot device; a posse searches for a victim kidnapped by Indians.
    And to say any more, believe it or not, would spoil the film; for where the genius of the piece lies is in the story telling through the characters and to see it ‘blind’ makes for a most rewarding experience. Suffice to say there are four main characters who head out and it is their interaction that tells the story, builds the tension, forms the comedy and devolves into terror when they reach their goal. Each actor is magnificent in their role, but special mention to Kurt Russell who simply excels. There is a lyrical quality to the dialogue that is almost poetry, and when juxtaposed against the harshness of the terrain and the sheer horror at the climax brings together something special. Shot very quickly, but with total conviction from everyone involved, including the look and tone of the piece, Bone Tomahawk defies characterisation and has brought a bold new player in S. Craig Zahler to the table.

    Picture Quality

    Bone Tomahawk Picture Quality
    The US disc presents a widescreen 2.40:1 1080p transfer using the AVC codec and is Region locked to A. Shot digitally the image as presented is breath-taking in terms of clarity, detail and black levels. Skin texture (check out Kurt Russell’s mighty chin), clothing weaves (check out Matthew Fox’s grimy shirt) are true and defiant, look also at the wood grain of the floorboards, or the dusty, sandy dessert walkways, or the scrub as it penetrates through the scorched earth – look at the stark branches etched against the merciless sky! What a gloriously rich picture this is. Colouring has been graded to push the hotter earthy hues and it really benefits from this manipulation. Flesh tones remain natural, while the primaries are vivid and strong. Check out the parched earch against the blue skies.

    check out Kurt Russell’s mighty chin

    Contrast and brightness are set to give strong, true and deep blacks that not only add depth to the frame but add substantial punch to the image allowing plenty of 3D pop. Shadow detail is strong allowing for the night shots to really have a sense of grandeur, while inky depths can remain impenetrable if needed. The top end is just as clean with no clipping of the whites, even against the sky. Digitally there are no compression issues or edge enhancement, the original print is in pristine condition and I only noticed the slightest of banding once; this is a stunning picture; rich and gorgeous.

    Sound Quality

    Bone Tomahawk Sound Quality
    Just the one track: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround. What at first view appears to be quite a front heavy mix, soon opens up to include the surrounds to provide plenty of ambience from the desert wilderness. Dialogue is clear and precise, dominated by the frontal array and sounds perfectly natural. The separation is quite wide across the front and effects are based around natural elements (wind/weather etc.) Bass is a bit of a mixed bag, however, whilst it is effectively used to give a good natural grounding to the proceedings, when it comes to gun shots or horse hooves on sand/wood the sub really kicks up. Yes this is a stylistic choice but it seems slightly out of place to me. Loved the mighty boom of the thunder sticks, but horses just walking… that's a bit too much. As for the score, what little there is, was well layered into the mix and the howls of the Troglodytes are just plain eerie.


    Bone Tomahawk Extras
    The Making of Bone Tomahawk – Is a slight misnomer, it's more of cast and crew interview interspersed with film footage in an EPK featurette, that lasts for 10 minutes but does contain some useful information.
    Deleted Scene – Is also slightly misnamed and ought to be called ‘alternative ending’.
    Fantastic Fest Q&A with the Director and Cast – As the title suggest a brief (30 minute) Q&A after the film's premiere at Fantastic Fest; questions are from the moderator and audience, and is the best extra on the disc.
    Poster Gallery
    Theatrical Trailer

    Blu-ray Verdict

    Bone Tomahawk Blu-ray Verdict
    Bone Tomahawk is a small, independent film, from a first time director that has had very little fanfare and barely any release. However, it is also an awesome film that defies expectation and is gaining awards, recognition, plaudits and fame, whenever and wherever it is seen.

    Director and author S. Craig Zahler has crafted a film that skilfully blends genres, something that many try but few achieve. The premise is a basic western, the plot revolving around a posse who set out to rescue a victim kidnapped by Indians, but throw in comedy, character drama and a huge dash to horror and the film behaves very differently. It is best seen ‘blind’, i.e. knowing little to nothing about how the film develops to get the best out of it, as it plays like a slow pot boiling juggernaut, that both regales and assaults the senses. Scenes of out-and-out comedy, lyrical dialogue, sheer gut wrenching terror and leg crossing horror make for a rollercoaster of a ride, and when, as in this case the film is competently made, with conviction from everyone involved you cannot help but be swept along for the ride. In many ways is reminds me of early Takashi Miike, but for a western audience and that is why it plays so well.

    It is the film itself that will ultimately win you over and comes highly recommended

    As a Blu-ray, the US release package is pretty good: the picture is stunning being very detailed, well coloured with deep blacks and a pristine print; whilst the sound (DTS-HD MA 5.1) delivers a good surround environment, even if it does push the occasional LF effect too far, and still manages to entertain. The extras are a little thin on the ground, but the Q&A session after the premiere is well worth a watch. It is the film itself that will ultimately win you over though, and comes highly recommended.

    You can buy the US Blu-ray of Bone Tomahawk here

    The Rundown



    Picture Quality


    Sound Quality






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