A Western-Horror-Monster movie hybrid? Consider me interested. I would love to see an old-fashioned Western gorefest with six-shooters a-blazing against several out worldly creatures. “The Burrowers” attempts to bring such a premise to fruition; it would be very cool to see monsters menacing the western genre. However, director/writer J.T. Petty has other ideas and goes in another way in portraying our flesh-eating antagonists in the film. One may say it is another take on the vampire myth.
Dakota Territories, 1879. When the Stewart family disappeared in the night, foul play at the hands of the local Native Americans are suspected. A prairie tracker named Will Parcher (William Mapother) hooks up with the local army led by Henry Victor (Doug Hutchinson) to try to find the missing clan. Joining the search is an outlaw named Clay (Clancy Brown), a former slave named Walnut, a boy and a lovesick young man named Coffey (Karl Geary). They cross the wide landscape looking for clues, Parcher and the men uncover living bodies in shallow graves; still alive but unable to move or even speak; they are proof that something demonic is going on. They learn that a mysterious pack of blood-thirsty creatures are now on their trail, looking to render them motionless, bury them alive so their organs can be liquefied and then eaten alive…
J.T. Petty resists the temptation to present us with a film whose potential for blood and gore is ignored in favor of characterization. While this is a monster film, and its key target audience would be horror fans, Petty tries to give his audience a quiet and moody tone than just presenting a visually stunning, fast-paced gorefest. His approach is to be commended, as we get to know the characters a little better and we may be subjected to some surprises in the western genre. Too bad we don’t really get to see much of a gooey lunch buffet, but the direction does try to be methodical, as we see our heroes encounter other obstacles such as Indians to make things a little more complicated for our protagonist; yes, this is where some gunfights begin.
The characterization is decent enough, as we see our characters interact; they are still a squad of archetypes though. The screenplay does tend to favor emotional behavior and hysterics to generate a few scares. However, male bonding and conversation doesn’t really aid in the development of suspense, Petty’s intentions may be good but the script just fails a bit in mixing in its horror and dramatic elements. The film gets to be a bit of drag, unfortunately when there are no Native Americans or when the “Burrowers” aren’t around, the film becomes somewhat of a bore.
The creatures looked like they are spider-like hairless, flesh-eating creatures. They do look creepy, and they are fascinatingly almost human-like. Their appearance does have that B-movie inspiration, and thankfully instead of CGI, Petty and company utilizes the use of puppets for their faces. But the creatures are animated via CGI, so when they move it gets a little cheap. Their habits are undoubtedly disquieting, as they cut your neck, poison you with their saliva, then as soon as you are immobile; they bury you, waiting for your insides to rot so that they may feed on your gooey innards while you are still awake. Kind of freaky if you asked me, some qualities seemed very similar to the Komodo Dragon and to the myths of vampire lore. The creatures can be driven off by bullets, but it won’t kill them. The only way would be to drug them with bait and spear them to keep them in place until dawn. The only vulnerability they have is sunlight, and no, they don’t sparkle as in the abysmal vampire movie “Twilight”. Petty also brings the Native Americans to bring the ‘white man’s’ abuse of natural resources that leads to the creatures into preying on humans.
Petty goes into some historical unease as demonstrated in the film’s last act, but instead of serving up some sympathy, it may just confuse the occasional movie watcher. I guess it would be because of the film’s uneven direction and somewhat slow-moving screenplay. There are also several distracting elements and plot holes in the movie that any kind of climax that isn’t carefully fleshed out may tend to frustrate and leave a dissatisfied sensation. I did look at the climax as a way to show that humans are capable of stupidity and hostile acts themselves. To its credit, “The Burrowers” attempt to do something compelling and different, but it was obvious that the film became hampered by its budget. It is a satisfying diversion but won’t really stand out because of its lack of thrills and suspense.
THE BURROWERS This has got to be one of the best blends of westerns and horror ever with a great story and wonderful acting. This is one of the most fun flicks I own and really enjoy it; writing and direction is spot on as well. So blend all of that together and you have one great film, really fun movie. Also throw in some great sets and locations and it makes for the perfect movie of its kind. Does it seem like I am just saying the same thing over … more