Horror. Worldview. Faith.

The Burrowers – Review

The Burrowers – Review

Mar 13, 2010

reviewed by Hallo
directed by J.T. Petty, 2008

I had never heard of J.T. Petty or his 2008 movie The Burrowers.  After watching his film I will now be watching him closely because I think we have a talented director who will be given projects of greater weight and importance in the years ahead.  The Burrowers is a Lionsgate film that was destined to be a “straight-to-dvd” release before filming was ever completed.  First, the horror genre is not short of soil-inhabiting creatures who wreak havoc on unsuspecting humans.  Once Tremors was made, this genre could only go downhill.  Second, the film is shot in the 19th century Old West.  Horror blended with the Old West is an almost sure-fire way to destroy a potentially good horror movie.  With those two potential short-comings in mind, the movie succeeds on almost every level.

The movie begins by providing the setting of a love interest between Fergus Coffey (Karl Geary) and Maryanne Stewart (Jocelin Donahue).  The fairytale is quickly disrupted by a massive disturbance in the middle of the night that leaves several of the Stewart family dead and others missing.  Coffey and others, including long time Indian killers John Clay (Clancy Brown) and William Parcher (William Mapother), believe that a ruthless band of Indians have taken off with the family.  They form a posse and set out to find the guilty party.  They are joined for a while by a military campaign that demonstrates just how brutal they can be to the Native Americans when they want something from them.  It is difficult to know whether or not this is a political statement against our government for the history of violence against Indians, but it nevertheless makes the military look like the “bad guys” in this film.

Because the brutality gets out of control, the smaller posse decides to set out on their own.  They begin piecing together the truth that something other than Indians are behind the savage killings.  After a run in with some Indians, the posse discover that they are dealing with creatures who have existed for a very, very long time.  They used to live off buffalo, but since the white man pretty much destroyed all of them (another attack on the white man), the creatures turned to humans.  Their method of killing is harsh.  They poison their victims, paralyzing them, and then bury them just under the ground so their bodies will decompose, but still be living.  After the organs have softened, they creatures return for their meal.  Pretty sick.  And awesome.

Well, the story continues to build tension until Mapother, the lead man in the posse, is infected and used as bait by some Indians.  In what amounts to a pretty gruesome scene of the creatures eating Mapother alive (think of the end of Day of the Dead), Coffey discovers that sunlight is their nemesis.  Unfortunately, by the time they figure things out, the military has once again entered the picture, hung the two Indians who were in the area and still alive, and called it a victory.   The movie ends on a very depressing note with the creatures still at large.  This easily gives way to a potential sequel.

This is a beautifully shot film.  The scenes of the western landscape and 19th century atmosphere are as good as any western.  Petty takes what could be a recipe for disaster and turns it into a thought-provoking, easy on the eyes, gem of a horror movie.  The creatures, once you actually see them (which doesn’t happen until 3/4 into the film), are actually not that big of a let down, which I was certainly bracing myself for.  The action moves slowly, but still at a good pace and the method of killing is unique and fresh, especially for the typical creature under the ground movie.  The origin of the creatures is never given, which actually adds to the film, and we are given just enough information to know they have a history in the land and have been seen before.  This differs from many creature films, such as Tremors, where massive underground creatures appear and have never been seen.

Overall, I highly recommend The Burrowers.  Good acting, beautiful shooting, and unique elements make this a great watch.  If you have On Demand, take a look for it under the Free Movies section.  You will be happy you did!

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