Embodying the most villainous characteristics of humanity can sometimes be the most alluring prospect in life, as those traits can be the most influential on the people whose lives you callously enter. Sid Haig, who has garnered acclaim in recent years for his chilling portrayal of Captain Spaulding in the cult horror film, ‘House of 1000 Corpses,’ and its sequel, ‘The Devil’s Rejects,’ once again connected with his diabolical side in his latest drama, ‘Bone Tomahawk.’ The actor generously took the time to discuss filming the independent horror Western during an exclusive phone interview, during which he noted how he appreciates that his most recent antagonistic character, as well the movie’s overall script, uniquely push boundaries of the two distinct genres.
‘Bone Tomahawk’ marks the feature film directorial debut of novelist S. Craig Zahler, who also penned the script. The drama had its world premiere at this fall’s Fantastic Fest, before it received a limited theatrical release on October 23. RLJ Entertainment will distribute ‘Bone Tomahawk,’ which is currently available on VOD and iTunes, on DVD and on Blu-Ray on Tuesday. The DVD will sell for an SRP of $29.96, while the Blu-ray has garnered an SRP of $29.97. The horror western’s home release discs will include several Special Features, including a featurette on the making of the film, the Fantastic Fest Q&A, a poster gallery and a deleted scene.
Set in the 1890’s, ‘Bone Tomahawk’ follows two scheming men, Purvis (David Arquette) and Buddy (Haig), who attack travelers for their belongings. After the two kill the men at their campsite, they retreat into the hills to avoid being caught. A couple of weeks later, Deputy Chicory (Richard Jenkins), who works in the small settlement of Bright Hope, tells Sheriff Franklin Hunt (Kurt Russell) that he saw a drifter, who turns out to be Purvis, bury blood-stained clothes, before heading for the local bar. The two lawman, along with the help of the educated John Brooder (Matthew Fox), question the merciless corpse robber before bringing him to the Sheriff’s station.
Meanwhile, local townsman Arthur O’Dwyer (Patrick Wilson) is at home recuperating from a broken leg, and is tended to by his wife, Samantha (Lili Simmons). Since Samantha has medical expertise, Brooder visits their home and asks her to remove a bullet from Purvis’s leg, and offers to accompany her to the station. However, she’s soon left behind with only the other deputy, Nick (Evan Jonigkeit), and the lone prisoner, as the rest of the available men are called to a barn, where a stablehand was brutally murdered.
When the men return to the station the next morning, Samantha, Nick and Purvis have disappeared, and the only clue the group finds is a single arrow. A local Native American man known as The Professor (Zahn McClarnon) informs Hunt that the arrow is from a group of primitive Native Americans, who are referred to as Troglodytes, who became detested for their savagery and alleged cannibalism after they became cave dwellers years ago. The Professor tells the remaining townsmen the location of the caves where the Troglodytes are known to stay, but warns them not to go, as they’ll be killed. But Hunt is determined to save the captives, so he assembles a group, including Chicory and Brooder, to track the attackers to their caves. O’Dwyer insists on also accompanying the men, despite his injury, as he’s determined to save his wife. As the group sets out to save the hostages, they’re unaware of the true evil they’re about to encounter.
Haig started the conversation by noting that he wanted to play merciless corpse robber Buddy in ‘Bone Tomahawk’ because “the story really captivated me as soon as I read the script.” Since the story and character intrigued him, the actor added that he “immediately knew I wanted to be in it. It really stretches the envelope, as the idea of a horror western hasn’t been overused.”
The main person Haig’s character interacts with in the film is Purvis, who is a fellow grave robber. Haig describe the experience of working with Arquette and as “fantastic. We were having a lot of fun” developing the relationship between the two villainous characters.
Haig also said that he liked filming the western on its main location, the Paramount Ranch in California, “because there’s a reality to it. You don’t film on a sound stage, and then walk outside, where you’re back in the 21st century,” Haig revealed. The actor then reemphasized that while he was shooting his arc of Buddy, “The location was perfect, because it can be tough to find remote locations in Southern California, where you’re not seeing telephone lines” in the background.
While further discussing the experience of shooting ‘Bone Tomahawk’ at Paramount Ranch, Haig also revealed the experience was difficult at times, since the cast and crew had to contend with high temperatures. “It was extremely hot, and I was wearing a wool coat the entire day. I did get a little dehydrated, and had to keep picking up my bottle of water,” the actor divulged. “But other than that, there weren’t any great challenges.”
But Haig feels the cast and crew were able to move past the heat they endured while making ‘Bone Tomahawk’ because of the skilled leadership of its writer-director. The actor noted that Zahler “really knows what he’s doing. He will be a force to be reckoned with, because of his approach to how he wrote the script. It’s intelligent, and it has a feel to it that’s keeping with what the West was like during that period of time.” The actor also divulged that he felt the director, who has experience working as a cinematographer, proved his skill and knowledge of the drama’s time period through the shots he decided to use.
While also explaining the process of making films independently, Haig noted that “A lot of time, you have to pay attention to the budget, so you have to work around things, and (Zahler) did that very effectively,” the performer added. “In general, extremely low budget films are difficult to make, because there are also serious time restraints. You just have to power through them,” Haig also divulged.
Even though ‘Bone Tomahawk’ was made independently over the course of 21 days, the actor revealed that there weren’t many challenges that the cast and crew had to overcome, besides the high temperatures. “When you’re working with a low budget, corners don’t always have to be cut. But you do have to pay mind to what your budget is, and you don’t overextend yourself,” the actor noted. “I think (Zahler) was effective in being able to do that. He told the story the way it had to be told, based on the amount of money he had to work with. I think he did an excellent job.”
Haig, who has appeared in multiple horror films throughout his career, divulged that he’s drawn to the genre because of the scripts he receives. He added that while he wants to continuing working in general, he’s interested in star in more horror films, as the genre has “been very good to me. I won’t turn by back on it, as the horror film fans are the best in the world. They’re so giving, loyal and smart, which makes it very special.”
Having garnered fame for his horror and action films throughout his career, Haig laughed as he added that he has “done most of my own stunts for the past 54 years. I have beaten myself up doing my own stunts, because in most cases, they haven’t been able to ind a double for me.”
Once filming and post-production on the Western was completed, and it was set to be released in theaters in October, Haig was able to enjoy seeing the completed film with an audience. “I was only able to attend the screening at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood. I was so pleasantly surprised by the reception I saw.”
While the actor enjoyed seeing the drama on screen at the Egyptian Theater, he added that he felt it was beneficial to also release the film on VOD and iTunes. “Sometimes it just doesn’t make sense to wait to receive a theatrical release on 1,300 or 1,400 screens. So you have to go into other areas of distribution. Back in the day, the audience used to come to you. Now, you have to go to your audience,” Haig explained.
Written by: Karen Benardello