Bone Tomahawk

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Bone Tomahawk
Bone Tomahawk Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byS. Craig Zahler
Produced by
Written byS. Craig Zahler
Music by
  • Jeff Herriott
  • S. Craig Zahler
CinematographyBenji Bakshi
Edited by
Caliber Media Company
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[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$1.8 million[2]
Box office$481,525[3]

Bone Tomahawk is a 2015 American Western horror film 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[4] and was given a limited release on October 23, 2015 by RLJ Entertainment. The film is about a small-town sherriff (Russell) who leads a posse into a desolate region to rescue two people who were abducted by a cannibalistic indigenous clan.


In the 1890s, two drifters, Purvis (David Arquette) and Buddy (Sid Haig), make a living robbing and killing travelers. Spooked by the sound of approaching horses, they hide in the hills and encounter a Native American burial site. Buddy is killed, and Purvis escapes.

Eleven days later, Purvis arrives in the small town of Bright Hope and buries his loot. Chicory (Richard Jenkins), backup deputy, notices him and reports to Sheriff Franklin Hunt (Kurt Russell). At the town's saloon, Hunt confronts Purvis. When asked his name, Purvis gives an alias, then tries to escape, only to be shot in the leg by Sheriff Hunt. Hunt sends John Brooder (Matthew Fox), to fetch the town's doctor. Meanwhile, foreman Arthur O'Dwyer (Patrick Wilson) rests at home with a broken leg, tended by his wife Samantha (Lili Simmons), the doctor's assistant. As the doctor is drunk, Brooder calls on Samantha and escorts her to the jail to treat Purvis. Leaving Samantha with Purvis and his deputy Nick (Evan Jonigkeit), Hunt and the others return home. That night, at a stable house, a stable boy is murdered.

The murder is reported to Hunt, who investigates and finds the horses missing. He goes to the jail and find it empty, with an arrow left behind. Hunt informs Arthur of the news. A local Native American man called "the professor" (Zahn McClarnon) examines the arrow and links it to a troglodyte clan. He warns Hunt that they are a group of cannibalistic savages who inhabit the "Valley of the Starving Men". Certain that Samantha, Nick, and Purvis had been captured by them, Hunt prepares to go after the clan along with Chicory and Brooder. 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 cold camp at another spot. However, during the night, a group of raiders ambushes them, injures Brooder's horse and steals the rest. Brooder regretfully puts down his horse. The next day a fight breaks out between Brooder and Arthur, exacerbating Arthur's leg wound. Chicory sets his leg and leaves him to recover, while he, Hunt, and Brooder continue.

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

Hunt realizes he has some opium tincture he confiscated from Arthur earlier to prevent him from overusing it. They trick several tribesmen into drinking it, however only one overdoses and dies while another becomes unconscious. Meanwhile, Arthur wakes up, follows the men's trail and discovers the valley. He kills two tribesmen and notices an object embedded in their windpipes. After cutting one out, he realizes that it acts as a whistle. He blows on it, luring another tribesman close, then kills him.

In the cave, realizing two of their men were poisoned, the leader grows angry. He and another tribesman pull Hunt from his cell, cut open his abdomen and shove the opium flask (heated by the fire) into the wound, and shoots him in the arm and abdomen with a rifle. Arthur arrives and kills one of the tribesmen, while Hunt decapitates the leader with one of the tribe's bone tomahawks. 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 women, who are blinded and have all their limbs amputated.

On their journey out, Arthur blows the tribesman's whistle, and with no response, they continue to exit. At a distance from the cave, they hear three gunshots, implying that Sheriff Hunt had killed the remaining men of the tribe. Chicory acknowledges the gunshots with a half-hearted smile and tosses aside the rock he had been carrying as a weapon. Tired, hurt, and with few supplies, the three begin the journey home.




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.[5]


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.[4] 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, another review aggregator, assigned 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. ^ "BONE TOMAHAWK (18)". British Board of Film Classification. October 7, 2015. Retrieved March 3, 2016.
  2. ^ Godfrey, Alex (February 15, 2016). "Best Western: Why Bone Tomahawk Became a Gunslinging Cult Hit." The Guardian. Retrieved November 11, 2019.
  3. ^ "Bone Tomahawk (2015) - Financial Information". The Numbers. Retrieved May 4, 2018.
  4. ^ a b "BONE TOMAHAWK - Fantastic Fest". Fantastic Fest. Retrieved November 4, 2015.
  5. ^ Sneider, Jeff (October 30, 2012). "S. Craig Zahler to direct 'Bone Tomahawk'". Retrieved February 1, 2014.
  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]