Sunday, October 30, 2016

Grim Dark Western Films

I'm hard at work on my western series the Dark Trail Saga, and I'm at least halfway done with the first Scavengers - (Cold Slither will fit into this but more as a collection of shorts that pertain to it at large as opposed to the rest which will be novels).

So besides just my readings - (I'm enjoying Killing Trail - Charles) I'm also watching some iconic westerns for that feel. I want to capture the great american mythology of the west and a lot of what I enjoy is the revisionist western.

So I'm catching up on a few that you all may or may not have seen.

The Hateful Eight

I like a lot of Tarantino's work (not everything but you know). With this one I have found myself thinking a lot about it the next few days afterward. If there is one thing I'd like to take away from this is how great Tarantino's dialogue is. The essence of capturing character and slick reveal of motivation is a lot of fun.
I definitely liked this more than Django Unchained as this seemed a lot more realistic and had better reveals.

Slow West 

I had seen ads for this and I wasn't sure I was interested despite Fassbinder's great performance in another weird west role in Jonah Hex.
Then I listened to the Weird West Radio podcast and was impressed by what they had to say about Slow West. It is a pretty gritty western, not so bloody as say a Tarnatino pic or Bone Tomahawk but still, it has a bang to it.

What I liked was the world weary wisdom of Silas (Fassbinder) and the blind optimism of the kid he has been hired to help out. There were  a lot of little asides where you thought something would happen and then great surprises, sometimes with grimdark laugh out loud surprises. There were also a couple of things that reminded me of a classic horror western Blood Meridian. For a new European/New Zealand depiction of the American west this was a great outing.

Bone Tomahawk 

In a way I have certain expectations for Kurt Russell in a western movie but both Hateful Eight and Bone Tomahawk give some character surprises while still allowing Russell to be that tough guy. I wanted to see this for awhile especially considering that the creator behind it is doing weird west books - S. Craig Zahler and his Wraiths of the Broken Land is coming to film soon too.
This one has interesting characters and great play back and forth between the dandy gunfighter and crippled husband and ne'er do well deputy. In some respects I had reservations about the cannibal tribe, it is cool that it is something different from others westerns but in that there were just a few f them made it a little hard to believe they would be that feared by other tribes etc. I did like their body modifications - that was a nice creepy touch.
My one reservation about it was I thought it was overly gory for gores sake. Just my opinion but still it was a compelling story.

The Wild Bunch 

This is another I had meant to see forever and it opens in an epic way, Peckinpah's imagery of the children having the scorpions fight the ants is so telling of our characters and the world they live in.

I loved the premise of the outlaws being a part of the Mexican revolution while still being hunted by  their former partner. betrayal is a powerful theme in this one and what's not to love about Ben Johnson mowing people down with a Maxim machine gun. This one like Tarantino has a pretty bloody ending without feeling over the top gross like Bone Tomahawk. Still I find myself comparing it to the Lee Marvin pic The Professionals which I still think I like better.

A Fistful of Dollars

I grew up watching Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns ( I also recently rewatched The Good The Bad and The Ugly and Outlaw Josey Wales just because) but it had been a long time since I had watched this western reworking of Yojimbo/Red Harvest. It stands up, its one helluva movie.

In my wondering about how to paint the western world I'm writing you can't go wrong with the classic Eastwood films.

I loved seeing the final showdown and Clint's reveal on his invulnerability.

There are a lot of elements in these that I'll sift through and percolate into the upcoming project.

What are some of your favorite western films, scenes etc?


Charles Gramlich said...

I still need to see Bone Tomahawk and Hateful eight. Not had much time to watch movies of late.

David J. West said...

I hear you, I thought I was late seeing both of them.

The Wasp said...

I'm not a fan of gore and had to practically watch "that scene" in Bone Tomahawk thru my fingers. Otherwise, I liked it a lot. I loved the director's willingness to spend a lot of time just building up the characters and breathing some life into them.

I never heard of Slow West, and think I need to check it out.

David J. West said...


They did a great job building character relations etc, I just thought that was more for the gross-out rather than horror.