Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Burrowers

J.T. Petty | 2008 | 96 mins | 2008

I’ve come to realize recently that a film needs only three basic elements in order to really satisfy me. It’s one of those simple, basic realizations that I’d never articulated to myself before, but here’s pretty much all I want:

1. A well written script. Clever writing can save a bad story and bad writing can ruin a good one. On the whole, I’d rather have a good script than a good plot. It helps to have both, but y’know, if I have to pick one.*

2. Good shootin’. A beautifully, smartly or interestingly composed shot is worth a thousand words, actually.

3. Good sound design. A great soundtrack is nice, but everything matters, from the score to the way the sound effects and even the actors’ voices themselves fit together. Sound can make or break the atmosphere in a film completely.

The Burrowers has all three in spades, AND it’s got Clancy Brown. Basically, JT Petty (Soft For Digging, S&MAN) had me at hello. I’m pretty sure I told him this while I was very drunk last night. I feel terribly jet-set this TIFF.

The western/horror blend relies heavily on slow building tension and suspense. It’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing that sneaks up on you very unnervingly indeed. The Burrowers feels uncanny, as well. It's like digging up something so terrifying that you have to cast it out because it's 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 let’s 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 Clancy Brown – star of such classics as Highlander and Buckaroo Banzai). 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.

Catch the second screening of The Burrowers on Thursday September 11th at 3:30pm, and check here for more info.

*Note: #1 does not apply to films in languages I don't speak. With those, I just assume I'm not getting any of the nuances of the script in subtitles anyway, so why judge harshly?

1 comment:

aaron said...

i really love The Burrowers, even more on second viewing. it's a great film and i hope it will find an appreciative home on video. if anyone has the chance to see the next screening at TIFF, please jump at the chance. this beautifully shot movie very much benefits from a big screen presentation and unfortunately it looks like this will be the only time you'll get to see it as such.