Reviewed by Serena Whitney
Starring Karl Geary, Clancy Brown, William Mapother, Sean Patrick Thomas
Written and Directed by J.T. Petty
Distributed by Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Vastly different from his last effort (the disturbing S&Man, which still has yet to receive a DVD release), writer/director J.T. Petty’s The Burrowers takes viewers on an unusual and frightening venture into the Old West.
Things start out with a lovesick Irish man named Coffey (Geary) preparing a speech to propose to his one true love, Mary-Anne. Unfortunately for him, Mary-Anne’s family is violently killed and she goes missing, and upon discovering this, Coffey and a group of skilled cowboys set out to save Mary-Anne. Thinking the assailants are Indians, the men go out on a standard search and rescue mission. Little do they know that the attackers don’t ride horses or shoot guns, but in fact they are far more evil and prefer to attack at night … from underground.
J.T. Petty delivers a creature feature surprisingly full of depth and substance. It is certainly going to be compared to classic monster movies like Tremors and Predator because, like those films, The Burrowers takes its slow and precious time before uncovering any shocking and revealing images of the “creatures.” Petty realizes that to make a good creature feature, it’s crucial to focus more on the characters before unleashing the beasts upon them, and he does so effortlessly in this thought-out and well-written western horror film. Unlike last year’s atrocity Skinwalkers, Petty shows a great understanding of and respect for Native American mythology and folklore and makes sure the source material is not handled in a cheesy or campy way.
Another thing The Burrowers manages to get right is how carefully it is shot. The cinematography is fairly impressive and definitely contributes to how the location plays as a pivotal character in the film. The Plains look striking in the day and have an ominous feel at night. This is something that can only be achieved by having a capable cinematographer and director behind the camera.
Although the gore is not plentiful, there are quite a few scenes guaranteed to make audience members wince or squirm in their seats with spurts of gruesome violence riddled throughout.
Every actor gives solid performances; Karl Geary proves that he can handle starring roles. He’s definitely an actor I’m looking forward to seeing more of in the future. Sean Patrick Thomas (who was last seen by horror fans in the horrific “let’s pretend it didn’t happen” sequel Halloween: Resurrection) also gives a great performance as ex-slave Callaghan. His clever one-liners definitely make him stand out from the crowd. Viewers are also treated to seeing genre greats such as Clancy Brown, William Mapother, and notorious bad guy Doug Hutchison eating up the scenery with their strong presences; fan boys and girls will be happy!
One of the biggest problems with The Burrowers, ironically, is the creatures themselves. The concept of them is far scarier than their look. Don’t get me wrong; they do look creepy at times, but unfortunately like in most recent creature features, the over-usage of CGI destroyed whatever fear could have been induced in this reviewer. If the movie had relied more on the special effects aspect rather than fixing the creatures up with CGI, they definitely would have been far more effective rather than just being distracting. This, of course, wouldn’t be such a big problem if the film hadn’t built up the look of the monsters. I wanted to see creatures that looked like they could have been related to the Predator family, not things that looked like they had just been crapped out of the Cloverfield Monster.
Though I initially liked the deliberate slow pace of the film, at places I found it too slow with certain sections dragging out longer then they should have. Cutting it down by ten to fifteen minutes would’ve made it much tighter.
Like the western horror Dead Birds, The Burrowers is likely to find an audience solely amongst hardcore fans of the horror genre. It’s certainly not a film that will re-invent the creature feature sub-genre, but it’s shot with artful precision, chock full of meaningful social commentary, and able to exude a certain level of maturity that makes it stand out from the crowd.
3 1/2 out of 5
3 out of 5
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