Published Sep 24, 2008The Burrowers has everything you could possibly want out of a horror/western hybrid: a funny, compelling script; great cinematography and a creepy, fantastic score; awesome acting; and at least one amazing cult figure (in this case, Clancy Brown, the giant dude from Highlander, Starship Troopers and Carnivàle).
The film is like a visually arresting cross between The Searchers, Tremors and CSI: The Dakota Territories, 1879, except way better than the sum of those parts. Basically, JT Petty (Soft For Digging and the amazing documentary that premiered at TIFFs Midnight Madness programme a few years ago, S&MAN) had me at hello.
The western/horror blend relies heavily on slow building tension and suspense. Its a wolf in sheeps clothing that sneaks up on you very unnervingly indeed. The Burrowers feels uncanny as well. Its like digging up something so terrifying that you have to cast it out because its not only horrific but also so familiar a terror from within.
The year is 1879 and the place is a gorgeously desolate stretch of the Dakota Plains. Coffey (Karl Geary, but lets just call him Hot Irish) comes calling on his ladylove one morning, engagement ring in hand, only to find her family and their neighbours missing or murdered. Both distraught and bewildered, the young man joins a band of local ranchers and cavalrymen in search of the victims, assumed to be the captives of a rogue native tribe.
Of course, the reality of this murky situation is much more sinister than anyone can imagine and soon Hot Irish is forced to split off from the search party and forge on with a couple of like-minded ranchers (William Mapother and the aforementioned Brown,).
The air of dread and mounting tension is beautifully maintained between the men, their environment and whatever it is that lurks in the shadows and tall grasses. (Maple)