When I sat down on a tired Friday evening to watch this Western-themed horror, I admit, I was expecting something cheap and flat.  A screensaver with some blood and guts and a bunch of yipping gunslingers saving damsels and such.  Maybe I would get a few laughs at Blazing Saddles comparisons, etc..  So I hunkered down as the sun set and I sipped my moonshine, prepared for for the inevitability of turning off the movie when I got bored.

...dead wrong, Betty, dead wrong.  
The Burrowers (2008) is a unexpectedly wild ride through twisting unclaimed terrain.  The haters will say this is just another version of Tremors...and they would be the kiddies who look up the wikipedia instead of reading the book so they can look smart in their shitty community college classes.  Note: don't diss this movie around Betty. Why?

Because you can see when a movie is half-assed.  You can feel it when the actors don't care, when the directors are just collecting paychecks to buy another summer home in LA or the south of France or putting another notch on their lame resume.  Some of those movies make it to the so-bad-it's-good list.  Most are just insipid (hopefully) forgotten reels. But what I was taken by was that this movie is trying its hardest to put a new twist on a once-popular American genre that's more or less gone out of setting and style after the likes of John Wayne and Hi Ho Silver, etc.. That's why most of us (myself included) generally scoff at the idea of a Western horror, because its outside of the typical framework of where we are expecting to feel fear (haunted houses, spaceships, zombie-infested shopping malls, sunken cities, high school proms, republican conventions, honey-boo-boo and so on).   But this is a powerful mix of both those elements, with a message to boot.

After the savage slaughter/kidnapping of members of a pioneer family, local law and gunmen set off to discover what they believe will be hostile Native Americans or bandits.  What they discover is a creature whose history predates any tribe they might hold responsible for these acts.  The men, consisting of an Irishman looking for his girlfriend, a freed slave, some prideful Calvary dudes, and locals who sense something is dreadfully wrong with the initial assessment of the crime committed.  A girl found buried alive, in a state of paralysis, is the first signal they are not seeking a group of angry natives, but something far more sinister and - what surprised me - complicated. 

The creatures these men seek are killers from before Western civ came to the Western world, beings as brutally foreign to the posse as the land is to newcomers from the East.  Here we have hints of films like Alien, and yes, Tremors, if you must, but the main thread and connection to characters is unique onto itself.  My one criticism of the piece is that, I wondered if it was almost too brutal, that there was too much of a sense of hopelessness.  And also, I am never a huge fan of anything CGI, but I thought this was tastefully done in most parts.  It's all offset by the dynamic within the hunting party; there is a LOT more going on between the group of characters than just a simple manhunt, which makes the film a period piece in its own right.  Part of it is just the setting of the 'untamed' territory of the west itself, and how it must have appeared to settlers coming from what they termed as a civilized, orderly, and predictable world.  I imagine that the kind of pride and self-assurance needed to exist in such uncertain and seemingly hostile terrain must have saved and/or killed a lot of folks back then.  That same manifest destiny drives the group of hunters to a conclusion that I did not soon forget.  Watch this one.  It's a horror diamond in the rough. 

WTF = 26
W = 9
T = 9
F = 8


1 comment:

  1. Hands down best horror Western.