Bone Tomahawk

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Bone Tomahawk
Bone Tomahawk Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byS. Craig Zahler
Written byS. Craig Zahler
Produced by
CinematographyBenji Bakshi
Edited by
Music by
  • Jeff Herriott
  • S. Craig Zahler
  • Caliber Media Company[1]
  • The Fyzz Facility
Distributed byRLJ Entertainment
Release date
  • September 25, 2015 (2015-09-25) (Fantastic Fest)
  • October 23, 2015 (2015-10-23) (United States)
Running time
132 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
Budget$1.8 million[3]
Box office$481,525[4]

Bone Tomahawk is a 2015 horror Western written and directed by S. Craig Zahler. It stars Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox, Richard Jenkins, Lili Simmons, Evan Jonigkeit, David Arquette, and Sid Haig and was produced by Jack Heller and Dallas Sonnier. It had its world premiere at the Fantastic Fest on September 25, 2015[5] and was given a limited release on October 23, 2015, by RLJ Entertainment. The film is about a small-town sheriff (Russell) who leads a posse into a desolate region to rescue three people who were abducted by a cannibalistic Indian clan.


In the 1890s, Purvis and Buddy, two drifters who rob and kill travelers, encounter a Native American burial site. They are attacked, Buddy is killed and Purvis escapes.

Purvis arrives in the nearby town of Bright Hope and buries his loot. However, Deputy Chicory reports him to Sheriff Franklin Hunt. Hunt confronts Purvis, who tries to escape, only to be shot in the leg. Hunt sends John Brooder to fetch the town's doctor. Meanwhile, foreman Arthur O'Dwyer rests at home with a broken leg, tended by his wife Samantha, the doctor's assistant. As the doctor is drunk, Brooder calls on Samantha to treat Purvis, leaving her with Purvis and Hunt's other deputy, Nick. That night, a nearby stable boy is murdered.

The murder is reported to Hunt, who goes to the jail and finds it empty, with an arrow left behind. The Professor, an educated Native American, links the arrow to a tribe that he refers to as "Troglodytes", as their culture has no spoken language and hence no name. He warns Hunt that they are a group of inbred cannibalistic savages, disdained and avoided by other native groups. Certain that Samantha, Nick, and Purvis have been captured by them, Hunt prepares to go after the clan with Chicory and Brooder, who is a veteran of the Indian wars. Arthur, despite his broken leg, insists on accompanying them to find his wife.

Days into their ride, two strangers stumble across their camp. Fearing they are scouts for a raid, Brooder kills them. They set up a camp at another spot. However, a group of raiders ambush them, injure Brooder's horse, and steal the rest. The following day a fight breaks out between Brooder and Arthur, exacerbating Arthur's leg wound. Chicory leaves him to recover while he, Hunt, and Brooder continue on-foot.

Reaching the valley, the three men are injured by arrows. After killing two Troglodyte attackers, Hunt and Chicory retreat, leaving Brooder, who is injured and demands to be left behind. Brooder kills one attacker before being killed himself. The Troglodytes capture Hunt and Chicory and imprison them in their cave. The men find Samantha and an injured Nick, imprisoned in a cage. They inform Hunt that the Troglodytes have already killed and eaten Purvis. They witness Nick stripped, brutally scalped, bisected alive, and then consumed. Samantha estimates the number of Troglodytes to be around twelve (reduced to nine by Hunt's posse).

Hunt tricks several Troglodytes into drinking liquor laced with opium tincture. One dies while another becomes unconscious. Arthur follows the men's trail and discovers the valley, he kills two Troglodytes and notices an object embedded in their windpipes. After cutting one out, he realizes that it is animal bone that acts as a whistle. He blows on it, luring another Troglodyte, then kills him.

In the cave, realizing two of their clan were poisoned, the Troglodyte leader grows angry. They cut open Hunt's abdomen, shove the heated opium flask into the wound, and shoot him. Arthur arrives and kills one of them while Hunt decapitates the leader. Arthur frees Samantha and Chicory, while a mortally wounded Hunt stays behind with a rifle. He promises to kill the surviving cannibals when they return, to prevent them from terrorizing Bright Hope. As the three leave the cave, they see two pregnant Troglodyte women, who are blinded and have had all their limbs amputated.

Arthur blows on the Troglodyte whistle with no response and they hear three gunshots, implying that Hunt has killed the remaining cannibals.




On October 30, 2012, S. Craig Zahler was set to make his directorial debut with a horror Western film from his own script, with the film starring Kurt Russell and Jennifer Carpenter.[1]


On September 24, 2014, Patrick Wilson and Matthew Fox joined the cast of the film to star along with Russell and Jenkins; Wilson would play Arthur O'Dwyer, a cowboy, while Fox would play the role of John Brooder.[6] On September 29, Lili Simmons, David Arquette, Sid Haig, Kathryn Morris and Evan Jonigkeit joined the film; Simmons replaced Carpenter to play female lead Samantha O'Dwyer, the de facto doctor and wife of Arthur O'Dwyer, Arquette and Haig would play brigands, Morris would play the wife of Sheriff Hunt, while Jonigkeit was set to play a young deputy sheriff.[7] The other ensemble cast added by the director includes Sean Young, Geno Segers, Richard Jenkins, Fred Melamed, James Tolkan, Raw Leiba, Jamie Hector, Jamison Newlander, Michael Paré, Zahn McClarnon, David Midthunder, Jay Tavare, Gray Wolf Herrera, Robert Allen Mukes, and Brandon Molale.[8] On October 2, Dave Halls was set as the first assistant director for the film.[9]


Principal photography began on October 6, 2014, in Malibu, California, where it was filmed for 21 days at the Paramount Ranch.[10]


In August 2015, RLJ Entertainment acquired distribution rights to the film,[11] which had its world premiere at the Fantastic Fest on September 25, 2015.[5] On October 3, 2015, it screened at the Charlotte Film Festival.[12] It was then screened at the London Film Festival on October 10, 2015,[13] before its limited release on October 23, 2015.[14]


Critical response[edit]

Bone Tomahawk received positive responses from critics and at festivals for its acting (particularly for Kurt Russell, Richard Jenkins and Matthew Fox), grittiness, Zahler's direction, and the dialogue of his screenplay. Film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 91% of critics gave the film a "Certified Fresh" rating, based on 93 reviews with an average score of 7.2/10, with the site's consensus stating, "Bone Tomahawk's peculiar genre blend won't be for everyone, but its gripping performances and a slow-burning story should satisfy those in search of something different."[15] Metacritic gave the film a weighted average score of 72 out of 100, based on 17 reviews from mainstream critics, considered to be "generally favorable".[16]

Guy Lodge of Variety praised the film, writing, "Bone Tomahawk may seem over-indulgent at 132 minutes, yet it's the wayward digressions of Zahler's script — navigated with palpable enjoyment by an expert, Kurt Russell-led ensemble — that are most treasurable in a film that commits wholeheartedly to its own curiosity value."[17] John DeFore from The Hollywood Reporter offered the film similar praise, commending the film's performances, production design, cinematography, score, and screenplay.[18] Jeremy Aspinall from The Radio Times awarded the film four out of five stars, calling it "a breathtaking addition to a once moribund genre".[19] Dennis Schwartz of Ozus’ World Movie Reviews rated the film a grade B-, praising the film's script, and blending of horror and western genres, while criticizing the film's runtime.[20] Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian gave the film four out of five stars, calling it "[a] pulpy twist on John Ford's The Searchers which is hide-under-your-seat scary".[21] Tom Huddleston of Time Out London awarded the film a similar four out of five stars, praising the film's script, cinematography, humor, and performances, calling it "[an] unusual, unpredictable western-comedy-horror movie".[22]

The film was not without its detractors. Matt Donato from We Got This Covered rated the film two and a half out of five stars, criticizing the film's runtime, writing, "Bone Tomahawk is a long, LONG journey towards cannibalistic mayhem, which will test the patience of western fans waiting for the gruesome tomahawking to begin."[23]


Awards and nominations
Association Date of ceremony Category Nominees Result References
Fangoria Chainsaw Awards March 13, 2016 Best Actor Kurt Russell Won [24][25]
Best Supporting Actor Richard Jenkins Nominated
Best Makeup/Creature FX Hugo Villasenor Nominated
Independent Spirit Awards February 27, 2016 Best Screenplay S. Craig Zahler Nominated [26]
Best Supporting Actor Richard Jenkins Nominated
Indiana Film Journalists Association Awards December 14, 2015 Best Supporting Actor Richard Jenkins Nominated [27]
Original Vision Award Nominated
Phoenix Critics Circle December 16, 2015 Best Horror Film Nominated [28]
Best Supporting Actor Richard Jenkins Nominated
Saturn Awards June 22, 2016 Best Independent Film Nominated [29]
Sitges Film Festival October 17, 2015 Best Direction Award S. Craig Zahler Won [30][31]
José Luis Guarner Prize Won


  1. ^ a b Sneider, Jeff (October 30, 2012). "S. Craig Zahler to direct 'Bone Tomahawk'". Retrieved February 1, 2021.
  2. ^ "BONE TOMAHAWK (18)". British Board of Film Classification. October 7, 2015. Retrieved March 3, 2016.
  3. ^ Godfrey, Alex (February 15, 2016). "Best Western: Why Bone Tomahawk Became a Gunslinging Cult Hit." The Guardian. Retrieved November 11, 2019.
  4. ^ "Bone Tomahawk (2015) – Financial Information". The Numbers. Retrieved May 4, 2018.
  5. ^ a b "BONE TOMAHAWK – Fantastic Fest". Fantastic Fest. Retrieved November 4, 2015.
  6. ^ Yamato, Jen (September 24, 2014). "Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox Join Kurt Russell Western 'Bone Tomahawk'". Retrieved September 26, 2014.
  7. ^ "Bone Tomahawk Adds Lili Simmons, David Arquette, Sid Haig and More". September 29, 2014. Retrieved September 30, 2014.
  8. ^ Sneider, Jeff (September 29, 2014). "'True Detective,' 'Girls' Actors Join Kurt Russell Western 'Bone Tomahawk'". Retrieved September 30, 2014.
  9. ^ Caranicas, Peter (October 2, 2014). "Below the Line Bookings". Retrieved October 3, 2014.
  10. ^ Christine. "'Bone Tomahawk', starring Kurt Russell, filming underway at Paramount Ranch". Retrieved October 6, 2014.
  11. ^ "RLJ Entertainment Acquires Kurt Russell Western 'Bone Tomahawk'". TheWrap. Retrieved November 4, 2015.
  12. ^ "Kathryn Morris UK". Retrieved November 4, 2015.
  13. ^ "The 59th BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express® announces full 2015 programme". British Film Institute. Retrieved November 4, 2015.
  14. ^ "'Bone Tomahawk' director explains how he got Kurt Russell back on a horse — exclusive poster". Entertainment Weekly's Retrieved November 4, 2015.
  15. ^ "Bone Tomahawk". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 18, 2018.
  16. ^ "Bone Tomahawk". Metacritic. Retrieved October 25, 2015.
  17. ^ Lodge, Guy. "'Bone Tomahawk' Review: Kurt Russell Stars in S. Craig Zahler's Grisly Twist on the Western – Variety". Variety Magazine. Retrieved October 28, 2019.
  18. ^ DeFore, John. "'Bone Tomahawk': Fantastic Fest Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 28, 2019.
  19. ^ Aspinall, Jeremy. "Bone Tomahawk – review". The Radio Times. Retrieved October 28, 2019.
  20. ^ Schwartz, Dennis. "BONE TOMAHAWK – Dennis Schwartz Reviews". Ozus’ World Movie Reviews. Retrieved October 28, 2019.
  21. ^ Bradshaw, Peter. "Bone Tomahawk review – a Western horror destined for cult status". The Guardian Magazine. Retrieved October 28, 2019.
  22. ^ Huddleston, Tom. "Bone Tomahawk 2016, directed by S. Craig Zahler". Time Out London. Retrieved October 28, 2019.
  23. ^ Donato, Matt. "Bone Tomahawk Review [Fantastic Fest 2015]". We Got This Covered. Retrieved October 28, 2019.
  24. ^ White, Scott Everett (January 14, 2016). "Kurt Russell receives Fangoria awards nomination for Bone Tomahawk". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved January 20, 2016.
  25. ^ Fangoria Staff (January 14, 2016). "The 2016 FANGORIA Chainsaw Awards Winners and Full Results!". Fangoria. Retrieved January 20, 2016.
  26. ^ McNary, Dave (November 24, 2015). "'Carol,' 'Spotlight,' 'Beasts of No Nation' Lead Spirit Awards Nominations". Variety. Retrieved November 24, 2015.
  27. ^ Indiana Film Journalists Association Editors (December 14, 2015). "Indiana Film Journalists Association Announces 2015 Film Awards". Indiana Film Journalists Association. Retrieved December 14, 2015.
  28. ^ Hankins, Brent (December 16, 2015). "Phoenix Critics Circle Announces 2015 Award Winners". Nerd Repository. Retrieved December 16, 2015.
  29. ^ "The 42nd Annual Saturn Awards nominations are announced for 2016!". Saturn Awards. February 24, 2016. Retrieved March 4, 2016.
  30. ^ Mayorga, Emilio (October 17, 2015). "'Invitation' Tops Sitges". Variety. Retrieved October 17, 2015.
  31. ^ Sitges Film Festival Editors (October 17, 2015). "'The Invitation' is proclaimed winner of Sitges 2015". Sitges Film Festival. Retrieved October 17, 2015.

External links[edit]