by Brody Rossiter
Not to be confused with the much loved miniature individuals known for inhabiting the creaking nooks and crannies of your home, The Borrowers, The Burrowers are a subterranean group of inhuman lifeforms who burst through the surface “every third generation” to gruesomely feast upon the flesh of the white man – clearly subtle differences are present between the two factions.
When a family of Old-West pioneers suddenly disappear from their homes, an assembled posse and US cavalry soldiers assume that “red-skinned Indians” must be the culprits responsible for their mysterious and violent relocation. Riding out onto the dusty prairies with Native Americans in their crosshairs, the group, including an Irish immigrant, a plucky wannabe cowboy, a freed slave, and a pair of battle-hardened gunslingers, soon realise there’s more than tomahawks at play out there in the wilderness.
The Burrowers is a prime example of what can be achieved with minimal filmic resources – namely, the landscape, some convincing costume and makeup design, and a sepia filter – when a talented director and cast come together. Its horror is both human and supernatural, utilising the true-life atrocities committed by man (the rampant murdering of Native Americans) as a bleak backdrop upon which to situate a uniquely supernatural threat. This practice of juxtaposing and mirroring horror both real and fictional in origin is common place within the genre – most notably with the use of World War 1 & 2 trenches and battlegrounds – however, its relocation to a desolate Dakota breathes new life into this technique before filling those newly cleared orifices with poison, dirt and subtle slices of body horror.
The eternal wide-open spaces create a climate of constant threat, and the astutely handled themes of racism and xenophobia quickly aid in its spread. The casting of largely unknown yet highly capable actors only bolsters the emotional weight present amongst the characters as this strange terror gradually ekes its way out of the darkness bringing great fear along with it. The Burrowers is a picture which feeds upon dread, futility, and its own creepy methods of distributing those attributes. This rootin’ tootin’ journey into a land full of horrors is a suitably scary twist on a proven formula for scares and a thematically deep and rewarding horror flick.