The Burrowers

J.T. Petty’s The Burrowers is the strong but silent type, an original and atmospheric entry in the horror/western genre. 

It’s also kind of…boring?

Burrowersposter by you.

I’m not sure how I felt about this movie. On the one hand, it’s breathtaking. The cinematographer, veteran Phil Parmet, absolutely floored me with the sweeping landscapes, startling close-ups and ethereal lighting. Oof. This movie is PRETTY.

horsies by you.

It’s smart, too. The film never errs on the side of obnoxious, with surprisingly sensitive portrayals of the Sioux and Ute tribes and character relationships that are honest and complex.

It’s just so boring, you guys. And I like slow films! I LOVE Gosford Park.  I also like Westerns. Tombstone is one of my top 5 favorite movies and Unforgiven rocks my socks. But stuff happens in those movies. Enough stuff. The Burrowers simply didn’t have enough plot to fill up 90 minutes, although it can claim enough atmosphere and beauty for two movies.

Karl Geary plays Fergus Coffey, who’s courting the lovely Miss MaryAnne Stewart in the Dakota Territories in 1879.

 geary by you.

He arrives at her house to find her father brutally murdered and MaryAnne and her sisters missing. The nearby Sioux are blamed, and a rescue party of hard-ass cowmen gather to ride hard and rescue the fair damsels. The search party includes such high-caliber casting as William Mapother of Lost and the peerless Clancy Brown of Carnivàle, among other things:

clancy and william by you.

my favorite weasely villain Doug Hutchison:

hutchison by you.

and smokin’ hot Sean Patrick Thomas, who sadly doesn’t seem to have a still from this movie, but here he is, being hot:


The gentlemen quickly discover that their biggest worry is not hostile Indian tribes but something much more insidious—the titular creatures, who look AWESOME. We don’t get to see much of them, but they’re these Morlock-y grasshopper/prairie dog hybrids AND THEY ARE FREAKY. They look really, really great, and when they’re around, they’re terrifying. They’re just hardly ever around.

I guess that’s the thing with The Burrowers—when anything happens, it’s believable and moving and cool and scary, but most of the time it’s just a lot of “The search party is riding by day.” “The search party is camping at night.” “Okay, now the search party’s riding by day again.” “Okay, now it’s night, and the search party’s camping. Got it.”

clancy and william 2 by you.

 Anyway, this bums me out, because I like to like movies that other people call boring. It makes me feel deep. And I DID like The Burrowers. I just don’t think it’s the second coming of horror the way so many people out there seem to. But I love that it’s arty, and I love that it’s never stupid or hamfisted or shallow. I also love how expensive it looks! It was made for $7mil, but apparently $7mil goes a looooong way in New Mexico.

cowboys and indians by you.

It is absolutely worth a rental, and Petty gets a serious tip of my hat for making a movie that’s original, risky, intelligent and gorgeous. If next time he can bring “interesting” to the table, I will totally be there!

ack! by you.

2 Responses to “The Burrowers”

  1. That’s a shame, I was hoping it would be cool like Tremors. I guess it just didn’t have enough Bacon.

  2. “Anyway, this bums me out, because I like to like movies that other people call boring. It makes me feel deep.”

    ha ha ha. DOUBLE TRUE.

    at the same time, i also like movies that other people call cheesy. it makes me feel AWESOME.

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