PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):
When a family of Dakota Territory pioneers is violently abducted and a posse is assembled to venture into the badlands and rescue them, the frightening truth they discover in the hills leads them to believe man may not be the only hunter stalking the Old West. The year is 1879, and beyond the fringes of civilization a handful of courageous pioneers maintain settlements while exploring the unknown territories. One night, under the shimmering Western stars, a family from one of these settlements is brutally dragged into darkness by a group of unknown invaders. At first the kidnappers are thought to be hostile Native Americans, and a posse forms to bring the family back home safely. Venturing out into the unmapped territories is an Irish immigrant desperate to find his lost love, a naïve teen eager to prove his worth, a former slave seeking his fortune after gaining his freedom, and a hardened pair of battle-weary Indian fighters. But nature’s wrath and the tomahawks of hostile tribes are not the only threats that this group will be forced to contend with, because as the bodies begin to multiply and the truth about the abductors gradually emerges, these rescuers will find out that there are forces in this world that cannot be described in human terms—and that seem to have motivations beyond our comprehension.
A species, called “Burrowers” by the Natives, used to subsist on buffalo. When white settlers depleted the buffalo, the species began to survive on human meat – first hunting nearby Indians and later the settlers. One tribe in particular, the Ute, have experience in combating the hunter-species. The “Burrowers” first lace their victims by cutting them and drugging them with a toxin. The victim is then buried alive and eaten only after decomposition has begun. By the time the film’s protagonists meet up with the Ute their number is severely depleted, but the Ute method of drugging someone already infected with “Burrower” toxin proves effective. When the “Burrowers” go to eat the twice drugged victim they themselves fall asleep and are vulnerable, especially to the rays of the sun. However, the surviving member of the posse, the Irishman Coffey, is unable to discover exactly what the Ute used to drug the “Burrowers”. The film ends with the suggestion that the “Burrower” attacks will continue. In addition to the environmental message about changing ecosystems, the film assesses prevailing attitudes towards Blacks and Natives amongst the settlers in the West, with especial focus on the brutality of the US cavalry.
Last week, I watched a Piranha 3D, a film that was so bad that it actually was sort of entertaining. Today, I decided to check out The Burrowers. My hopes were that the western setting would make up for any shortcoming this flick, which was not released in theaters, btw, would have.
I should have known better than to belive that, though. The western theme is a nice change for horror films, as most films in this genre are present day (with flashbacks here and there), but I’m not quite so sure it works. I mean, the plot would only work in this era, but something about it sort of took me out of the mindset. Granted, I’m a pretty big fan of westerns, so that may have had something to do with it, but I could be wrong.
The plot here revolves around the mysterious disappearances/murders of settlers in the Dakota territories. Said disappearances are being done by these mysterious nocturnal creatures called “burrowers” (think creatures from Tremors and Gremlins). Of course, the “white man” believes the abductions are being done by the Native Americans, which could not be further from the truth, but of course, you can’t tell stubborn men anything, can you?
The effects in this film aren’t too bad. I mean, they aren’t anything special and won’t blow you away, but at least this looks like a real film and not the cheap Sci-Fi channel type. The creatures are quite freaky looking, and the fact that we don’t really see them until near the end of the film is throwback to the classic days of horror when the idea was scarier than the actual sight of something.
The actors don’t really do anything you haven’t seen in every other horror flick. There is the one guy who you know is going to be the “survivor”, there the old guy who seems to be the leader, the cocky guy who doesn’t die soon enough, and the token black guy. Yes, the casting and characters were very formulaic, and yet, in a film like this they work, due to the dynamic between the characters.
Having said that, there is a reason no big name actors are in this picture. This script does not allow the actors to breathe, if you will. You can see on their faces that they want to do so much more with their characters. The only member of the cast who actually seem content in their roles are Sean Patrick Thomas as the free cook and Doug Hutchison and the sadistic Calvary commander.
The ending will throw you for a loop and is a true WTF?!? moment, and actually may be the best part of the film. This isn’t the worst thing I’ve seen this year, but I found myself struggling to keep focused. My ADHD aside, this flick just doesn’t keep one’s attention. For that reason, I can’t recommend it. Plus, there is a reason it wasn’t released in theaters, don’t you think? I guess, though, if you’re a horror fan, it wouldn’t hurt to check it out.
2 1/2 out of 5 stars