Film scores

Soundtrack review: Bone Tomahawk (Jeff Herriott and S. Craig Zahler – 2015)

“Bone Tomahawk” is a movie I will want to see. First, it’s Kurt Russell and that alone would do it. Then there’s the story… When a group of cannibal savages kidnaps settlers from the small town of Bright Hope, an unlikely team of gunslingers, led by Sheriff Franklin Hunt (Kurt Russell), sets out to bring them home. But their enemy is more ruthless than anyone could have imagined, putting their mission – and survival itself – in serious jeopardy. Besides Kurt Russel we have Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox and Richard Jenkins. The music was co composed by Jeff Herriott and the film’s writer / director S. Craig Zahler. Obviously this is the kind of composition that works best in context since the creator the movie was so involved.

I’m expecting a western score but I find myself enjoying a cello in the opening theme “Four ride out”. Once again I meet the Western sound developed by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis; the same slow burning and long, sharp string sound which makes me think and reflect. “In the defile” comes next and it burns even slower, it’s almost a 3 minute long hum. It’s a transition cue because this is what the director wanted from the score: to fill the gaps in action, to play those moments when thing don’t happen on screen, the travelling moments, the interludes.

This makes for quite a strange score and, frankly, a difficult one to enjoy out of the context of the movie. I can create my own mental images and I can imagine a simple and almost invisible cue such as ”Dragged along coarse course” working if I was watching some developments on screen. Every other cue seems to really be nothing more than an insert.

Luckily there are cues like “One man walks” that really get to me. This tender Cello theme has all the emotion I was looking for and says quite a lot with very little effort. A poignant piece like this makes listening to this score worthwhile. I will mention again Nick Cave and Warren Ellis because this is the kind of score they would write. Cues like “Four dead man ride out” and “The burdened quartet” are wonderful solo cello experiments and compositions I will not forget very soon.

Even if I had a hard time connecting to the truly transitional cues I can see them making sense as well. I really loved the deep and heartbreaking cello pieces and they are what make “Bone Tomahawk” memorable to me. You can’t go wrong with a mood like this. Mark this as an intriguing and unusual Western score.

Cue rating: 78 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 7 / 20

Album excellence: 33%

Highlights:

Four Dead Men Ride Out

The Burdened Quartet

Den Of Boar Tusks

Four Doomed Men Ride Out

About the author

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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