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Written and directed by S. Craig Zahler, this is a brooding and methodically paced western that switches gears into a full-blown horror for its last act. The story has Sheriff Franklin Hunt (Kurt Russell), who presides over the small western town of Bright Hope, heading into hostile territory to rescue a young wife (Lili Simmons) and his own deputy (Evan Jonigkeit) from a tribe of cave dwelling cannibals, that even the local Native Americans are afraid of. Along with him are his friend and back-up Chicory (Richard Jenkins), an aristocratic gunslinger (Matthew Fox) and the woman’s crippled husband, Arthur (Patrick Wilson).

Zahler takes a good 90 minutes letting us get to know his slightly eccentric characters before throwing them into a meat grinder…almost literally…when they finally encounter the vicious tribe. A good portion of the film is the journey where the moderate pace lets us really become familiar with Hunt and his party and it lulls us into a sort of sense of security, which we are then shocked out of when the would-be rescuers reach their grim destination. It works very well as when we finally get into the mountain lair of these brutal ‘troglodytes’, we are shocked at the gruesome brutality we are forced to witness after the more laid back first 90 minutes. The last act is a bloodbath and as we know these characters so well by now, it makes us feel for them. It’s a cruel and intense and makes the long wait definitely worth the while.

There are some really intriguing characters here and the entire cast does really solid work bringing them to life. To single anyone out would be unfair, though obviously Russell is great as always.

Sure, it’s a very slow burn and maybe we would have liked to know more about this ‘tribe’, but it is still a very satisfying and unique movie that is a refreshing change from a lot of the cookie cutter horror that we have seen over the last few years. It can be quite brutal at times, but Zahler gives us a well scripted thriller especially when it comes to his eclectic cast of characters and a real nail-biting finale. Recommended.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) guns.