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Bone Tomahawk by Jeff Herriott & S. Craig Zahler (Review)

posted Oct 26, 2015, 4:55 PM by Kaya Savas

Bone Tomahawk follows four men as they ride out to rescue captives from a group of cave-dwelling cannibals. A pretty impressive cast leads the feature directorial debut of S. Craig Zahler which tries its hand at blending the western genre with a rich coat of horror and suspense. The score itself is also lead by newcomer Jeff Herriott. Herriott may be new to films, but has an accomplished career with solo and chamber works with electronics. The score is also co-scored by Zahler, and it’s always interesting to see the director dabble in the music as a composer. The score itself is quite minimal in its approach and presence. At 21-minutes there isn’t much to go around for the 2hr 13min film, but the dramatic structure is interesting to analyze.

The score in its essence feels like something that was born in the 70’s when the spaghetti western was in its heyday, but not the traditional kind of Sergio Leone type western. We’re talking maybe the more obscure ones with one of those oddball Morricone scores. It’s not as far as something like El Topo or the wackiness of Morricone's Navajo Joe, but carries elements of that strangeness. The plot is more akin to Ron Howard’s The Missing, and the score maybe more like Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ The Proposition. The score carries a central motif in the tracks that start with “Four”, such as the first track “Four Ride Out”. The music in between serves more for suspense and horror. Unfortunately nothing is developed enough to actually make an impact. Then you have the ending track, which is an homage to when westerns had a ballad title song sung melodramatically. The music is built to have a dramatic flow, but there isn’t enough of it to actually create one. The creepy vocals created for the cannibals’ lair are effective, but again there isn’t enough for something substantial to get built. Then the song at end sort of comes out of nowhere.

Bone Tomahawk is a fascinating western score for sure, it has some unique elements and a structure that will indeed hook you at first. But the score never holds you, and is over before you know it. Obviously this score was designed to be interspersed in a film that utilizes the environment as its soundtrack, but even as a score that only pops up once in a while, it doesn’t have the penetration it should have. You can tell a lot of thought went into the approach and design of the score, but its overall effectiveness is a bit questionable.