Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

The only film I had seen from director J.T. Petty was ‘Mimic 3: Sentinel’, which while I did think it was lacking in many categories it was fairly obvious watching that movie, at least to me, that the director showed some serious promise working with what I’m sure were some extremely tight purse strings considering the limited locations and somewhat truncated running time of that movie. It is always a good thing to see potential become realized because with Petty’s latest film ‘The Burrowers’, at least from where I’m sitting, it is just a really, really good movie.

It’s the old time west. What state this takes place in, hell… I don’t know but I think the year is 1875. Coffey (Karl Geary) an Irish immigrant has finally gotten up the courage to ask the father of Maryanne (Jocelin Donahue), the pretty girl who lives out in the plains, for her hand in marriage. Unfortunately Mr. Coffey waited a day too late because something really, really bad happened to Maryanne and her family the night before, something that has left the family slaughtered and Maryanne missing.

Now this is the old west, settler country and all, and when John Clay (the Legendary Clancy Brown), probably the toughest cowboy in the land joins Coffey upon this horrific scene of carnage he has concluded that it has to be the work of some Injuns who has slaughtered this family, children and all, and have taken them a white woman to do with as they please. John Clay quickly dispatches Coffey to retrieve veteran frontier man Will Parcher (William Mapother), who happens to be in the midst of doing a little courting himself, to join them on their journey to retrieve Maryanne before the worst befalls her. To show this woman Gertrude (Laura Leighton) that Parcher is courting how serious he is, he offers to take her teenage son along on the search to help this boy become a man. Hmmm….. Oh and there are these odd holes in the ground but heaven only knows what those wacky Injuns were doing with those.

Serving as escort for our quartet of searchers is a U.S. Army regiment led by the luridly maniacal Henry Victor (Doug Hutchinson) who seems more concerned with finding and torturing Native Americans than finding this missing girl, to the point that our quartet, soon to be joined by Victor’s cook and freed slave Callaghan (Sean Patrick Thomas), go on their own way to find this missing girl. After a few harrowing events in which a few of our members don’t quite make it, it is becoming increasingly and painfully obvious that the Indians had little or nothing to do with these missing people. Oh if only the Indians were the ones responsible, considering what these dudes end up having to deal with.

One of the complaints I had heard about this movie before actually sitting down to watch it was that the pace was too slow and that it was boring, and though this isn’t an ‘action flick’ by any means I must respectfully disagree as I personally thought the pacing was pitch perfect. You have this group of men on horseback dealing with this vast, virtually uncharted space searching for almost nothing and thus I can’t see how this is going to go by too terribly quickly. So in the absence of all kinds of stuff happening, we have to watch them deal with each other, and this is where another strong part of the movie shows up in the characterizations and the actors playing these characters. Clancy Brown and William Mapother are very strong in their roles, and Doug Hutchinson does what he does. If I’m Doug Hutchinson, recognizing that playing smarmy snakes is how he feeds his kids (if he has any), I would request just one time the opportunity to play a character who is a halfway decent guy. I don’t want to short change either Karl Geary or Sean Patrick Thomas in this film, Geary as the films lead who drives the narrative forward and Thomas who provides a bit of intense levity, but nothing close to approaching buffoonery, to a rather dark and foreboding story.

The mystery of the movie is the burrowers themselves because we really don’t get to see much of them, at least until the end. Though I thought the tale of the burrowers was adequately, albeit ridiculously presented, it’s probably a good thing we didn’t get to see that much of them because, for lack of a better word, they looked like ass. They looked a little like gray sperms with grasshopper legs. The thought of the burrowers was far more frightening than the burrowers themselves.

However the good thing about this movie is that it is more about the thought of the monster than the actual monsters and with its wide open beautifully shot landscapes, the languid pacing, solid acting and tight scripting, ‘The Burrowers’ is an unqualified success of a film that successfully accomplished what I believe it set out to do.

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