Saturday, June 27, 2009


WHAT THE MONSTERS TAUGHT ME: A Great Substitute for Buffalo Jerky Is Cowboy Jerky.


John Ford's The C.H.U.D. Searchers meets Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Munch meets Sergio Leone's Tremori, a scraggly boy-poking Brother Crowe, a 19th century Randolph Mantooth, a great mustachioed Horace Goodspeed, a Lost Ethan now found monster food, and Yippie-Kai-Yay, Cowboy Chompers!

More details here.


It’s 1876 and the Dakota Territory has turned into a Terror-tory with the endless threat of the wilderness and Indian massacres upon pioneers such as Stewart family. Young Maryanne Stewart (Jocelin Donahue) is being courted by Irish journeyman Fergus Coffey (Karl Geary) and the pair seal the deal with the exchange of a broach and hand-holding. Scandalous! One evening, the family is attacked by an unseen enemy that kills the parents and kidnaps the children including Maryanne. Renegade Sioux Indians are blamed for the kidnapping and the next day, a rescue party is formed consisting of a deeply concerned Coffey, the gruff but experienced Parcher (William Mapother), his naïve stepson-to-be Dobie (Galen Hutchinson), the grizzled prairie-weary Clay (Clancy Brown), and skeptical manservant Callaghan (Sean Patrick Thomas). They team up with sniveling beast Army Captain Victor (Doug Hutchinson) and his band of bloodthirsty Indian-haters, but members of the posse don’t exactly see eye to eye. Clay and Victor clash over asking friendly Sioux for help, Parcher and Dobie share a tense relationship, but Coffey and former slave Callaghan bond when they discover they share more in common than stinky boots. As they traverse the desolate plains for the lost family, they are horrified to discover bodies buried in the earth. The victims are half-paralyzed but alive and trapped in a hideous suspended animation for some unknown reason and by some arcane method. Suspecting a new tribe of vengeful natives, the posse intensifies its search for an adversary the Sioux calls The Burrowers. But the men slowly realize that not only will they have to set aside their prejudices and blind hatreds, they’ll have to pray to their cowboy-hat wearing God as they find themselves confronted with primordial underground creatures whose idea of Manifest Destiny is a gut-munching buffet of yahoos and country bumpkin racists. Yee-horror!


One of a handful of effective horror films set in the Old West, The Burrowers is a unique blend of thoughtful Western story and horror tale which is simultaneously solicitous as a desperate western adventure and enjoyable as a horror movie. Director J.T. Petty strives to create a realistic setting with well-rounded characterizations and a suspenseful and often hopeless storyline while delivering the monster movie goods in the creation of a terrifying breed of creatures. And for the most part he succeeds thanks to solid performances, a seemingly well-researched script, and an intense almost apocalyptic atmosphere. There is no escaping the tinge of doom that pervades the movie as accentuated by the terrifying way the creatures feed, the fact that these guys are alone in the middle of nowhere with help two-days ride away, and that their only salvation is their hated enemy that would give anything to see the white man gobbled up by a Sioux boogeyman. Pretty potent stuff, I thought. But the only flaw in the film is occasional slowness and storyline meandering, two things that almost cannot be escaped with a limited budget. These were small prices to pay for what I thought was an effective, beautifully shot movie. But try finding a positive review for this film and you’ll end up as paralyzed as the victims in the movie. Most of the reviews out there skewer the director’s attempt to subvert the genre with a Western sensibility, twisted takes on Western archetypes, and making viewers wait for the gory ending (which incidentally wasn’t that outrageously gory, which made it even better). And it’s the supposed intent that’s scrutinized and scorned, not the outcome or effect which I thought worked. Perhaps it’s a matter of taste and perception as all movie criticism can arguably be boiled down. This is the kind of movie horror fans need to see and support. Enough with the stupid remakes, the silly Asian do-overs, and the brainless soulless penniless gore. Although infused with an admirable political subtext, The Burrowers is not a feast of intellectualism or genre-reworking, but it is an effective and well-prepared meal of cowboys, indians, and monsters, literal or otherwise.

No comments: