Lionsgate // 2008 // 90 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // April 24th, 2009
Evil will surface.
A Western-meets-creature-feature yields a surprisingly rewarding horror experience.
Set in 1879, in the Dakota territories, The Burrowers tracks the woeful misadventures of a group of cowboys and an Irish immigrant named Fergus Coffey (Karl Geary), after an Indian tribe suspected of kidnapping Fergus's girlfriend.
As they plunge deeper into the wilds, they discover that Indians are the least of their worries: they're being stalked and eaten alive by unseen creatures and if they have any hope of surviving, they're going to have to...nah, they're not going to survive @#$%.
I liked this quite a bit. Crafting an interesting and different horror movie -- especially a horror movie about mysterious creatures that eats people -- is a challenge in these genre-soaked days, but The Burrowers is a winner. It's a marvelous-looking film, staged with a big-budget feel and features solid performances and some truly nasty monsters. If you can get past the last-minute sermonizing about the white man's affection for slaughtering buffalo, I think you'll have a more-than-decent time with what writer/director J.T. Peter cooked up.
The Burrowers is very much a Western and, aside from some tantalizing glimpses at the Big Bads early on, the first two-thirds or so of the film are dominated by the tale of rough Western men on a mission who get into gunfights with Indians, talk trash to the corrupt U.S. Army guy and ride across majestic plains. The genre gears shift dramatically once the titular beasties land on the scene and you're suddenly smack in the middle of an old-fashioned "horrifying-creature-stalks-and-kills-confused-victims" scenario. The Western stuff worked and so too does the horror stuff.
Big props to the effects crew that put together the Burrowers. There is a lot of practical work at play, giving the creatures a tactile, "real" feel. Sure, if you think about it hard enough it's not hard to see the rubber suits, but in an age of overdependence on half-assed CGI, it's nice to see old-school work still being utilized well. The story behind these creatures is a keeper, too, and the final showdown is done nicely, with a shout-out to Gremlins or Fright Night.
The big criticism that can be attached to The Burrowers is its pacing, which takes a while to spool up. But be patient -- if you can get through some of the slower, character-building moments in the beginning, you will be rewarded with a fun creature romp.
Lionsgate gives the film a nice digital treatment, starting with an attractive if slightly washed out 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and a robust 5.1 Dolby Digital surround mix. Extras: a laid-back commentary from JT Petty and Karl Geary and a pair of solid featurettes on the making-of the film and the creature designs.
I know there are plenty of genre pictures competing for your time, but give The Burrowers a shot. One other note: despite what the disc case says, the movie does not run 124 minutes. You' looking at the standard hour and a half.
Not guilty. Mosey on out of here now, y'heah?
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated R