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The Burrowers (2008): Engaging History, Bad Effects

The Burrowers (J. T. Petty, 2008)

 

photo credit: Wikipedia

You are who you eat.

When The Burrowers isn’t trying to be a monster movie, it’s actually quite a good tale; it spends a good amount of time examining white-Sioux relations in post-Civil War America for the first three-fourths of its length, and while I’m sure it cleaves rather loosely to the reality of the situation, it presents its case in a pretty convincing fashion nonetheless. Petty (S&Man) does a decent, if not stellar, job of trying to convey the complexity of the situation, and oddly, the film put me in mind of Meek’s Cutoff more than once as our little party wanders around looking for the would-be fiancee of Fergus Coffey (Hamlet‘s Karl Geary), as well as the women and children of her family and neighboring homesteaders, all of whom vanished without a trace after the menfolk were dispatched in a bloody fashion. The local militia, of course, in the person of Henry Victor (The Green Mile‘s Doug Hutchinson), assumes the Sioux to be the culprits, and sets out for the local reservation with a small posse of mixed military and civilians to do some questioning. We find out how Victor and “his Indian”, Ten Bear (The New World‘s Anthony Parker), question folks when the party happens upon a lone Ute, Dull Knife (Hidalgo‘s David Midthunder), and apprehend him. (As I get older, I find there are some scenes I can’t watch…) The party is repeatedly harassed at night, though, and eventually, they realize that what’s after them doesn’t really resemble the Indians they’re used to…

…and that’s where the movie gets conventional, predictable, and silly. If it had stayed in The Searchers mode and given us a mundane explanation for the disappearances (though perhaps one a little less politically incorrect than The Searchers have us), it might well have risen above genre conventions and become something pretty special, in the same way S&Man did. While the last quarter of the movie is nothing special, it’s worth a gander for the first three-quarters. Also features arguably the most solid performance I’ve ever seen from William Mapother (The Grudge). ** ½ 

 

Burrow, burrow.

About Robert "Goat" Beveridge

Media critic (amateur, semi-pro, and for one brief shining moment in 2000 pro) since 1986. Guy behind noise/powerelectronics band XTerminal (after many small stints in jazz, rock, and metal bands). Known for being tactless but honest.

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