Horror westerns have always been something of a rarity in film. And that’s a pity. The isolation and gritty atmosphere of the Old West provides a great atmosphere for a horror story. Fortunately, The Burrowers is bold enough to make good use of it.
The film opens with an attack on a pioneer family. When word of the group’s disappearance reaches the outside, a posse is formed to mount a rescue operation under the assumption that Native Americas are the culprits. They find signs of a struggle and a lone survivor, rendered catatonic during the attack. But as they continue their search, it isn’t long before they learn there are far more terrible things than raiding parties lurking in the badlands.
Any creature feature is measured in large part by the quality of its monsters, and The Burrowers delivers admirably in this respect. CG is almost entirely abandoned in favor of practical effects, creating some genuinely eerie monsters. Their modus operandi, which I don’t want to spoil for you here, may well be one of the most unique and twisted in horror cinema.
The movie also provides a fair amount of social commentary regarding the era’s environmental disruption and bigotry toward blacks and Native Americans. While it may come off a little heavy-handed on occasion, it’s mostly handled well and adds some extra layers to the story.
Overall, The Burrowers is a good sit. It’s a little slow to start after the first scene, but decent acting carries the film through the lull long enough for things to really get moving. The climax is properly dark and gory, capped by a final scene that’s a clear nod to The Night of the Living Dead. About the only real issue I had was that the volume of the dialogue seemed unusually low. Whether this was a production issue or some kind of defect in my DVD, I have no idea. Still, I recommend giving this one a look–even if you do have to crank the volume up.