There are some genre crossovers that don’t really get done all that often. There aren’t many romantic movies about the Holocaust, for instance, unless Topless Kate Winslet’s involved. And there aren’t many western horror films. The Burrowers attempts to do the latter, adding some dirt to an otherwise untouched genre combo, but it’s so insufferably boring that it’s hard to give a hoot about what ends up happening.
The Burrowers comes from North Carolina director, author and video game writer J. T. Petty. He wrote Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell and a rare 2006 pseudo-doc called S&Man. For this 2008 western horror, Petty calls on his horror background and delves into just about every known western cliché there is. On the surface (get it?), The Burrowers isn’t a bad movie. The acting is okay and the scenery is decent.
We open on a family of pioneers in the Dakota Territory. They’re set upon by some mysterious, violent force and are abducted. A posse gets assembled to track down the family. They think Indians took the family, of course, and set about trying to track down the vile tribe that would dare attack and kidnap white people.
As the posse ventures on, it becomes clear that they aren’t dealing with Indians. The “tribe” that took the family in such a feat of brutality is comprised of mysterious creatures and, as more information about these Burrowers comes to light, the posse must decide how to go ahead without harming the cause of the mission or becoming prey themselves.
The Burrowers features an ensemble cast that includes Clancy Brown, William Mapother, Laura Leighton, Sean Patrick Thomas, and Doug Hutchinson. Nobody really stands out among the cast, but all do a serviceable job treating the mission and the threat of the bizarre Burrowers as though it’s something to really be concerned about.
The problem with the film is in the pacing department. The basic plot of The Burrowers is obscured for the majority of its 96-or-so minutes. The posse believes they’re dealing with Indians, so they go ahead as such. Unfortunately, this generates little more than run-of-the-mill dialogue and a relatively boring quest. We get glimpses of the creatures in question at times, but the camera mostly lurks in the dark and teases us until the monsters finally come to light. By then, it’s hard to care.
The Burrowers seems to want to be more of a western than a horror film. While that could have worked under different circumstances, the Burrowers themselves are such ridiculous, convoluted creatures that more time should have been dedicated to them. While the history of how they came to be was interesting, Petty doesn’t do enough with it. It does leave some open ends for sequels and the like, but I’m not sure there’s much by way of interest.
I can’t say that my life was made better because I can now count myself among the few that has seen The Burrowers. It’s not a horrible film by any stretch of the imagination, but there’s just not enough substance here to recommend it. As a western, it’s pretty bland. And as a horror, it’s just not meaty or frightening enough.