Midnight Madness Blog

- 2008
- 2007

In many ways, the Western is the original American genre. It not only shows an America in its infancy, but sets out all the ideals that are to guide the fledgling nation for many decades to come (up to and including present day). Family values, bringing civilization to the uncivilized (replace with democracy today in Iraq) and simple good vs. evil, are all dealt with in the classic Western films.

Because the Western is such an aged genre, it has seen many interpretations from both Hollywood and beyond. As with any classical genre, it must go through a series of cycles, beginning with introduction of the genre, “hey-day” of the genre, and eventual decline and parody of the genre. It is at this point however, that the genre is left open for re-invention. The re-invention of the Western has occurred several times in its history, with notable examples being John Ford’s The Serachers, Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West and Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven. To this canon of Western revisionist films, we can now add JT Petty’s The Burrowers.

A mere monster movie, The Burrowers is not. It is chock-full of commentary on the nature of American values (lack thereof?) in both 1879, as well as 2008. Much like The Searchers a band of heroes (see below) sets out to find a wholesome American (read, white) family that has mysteriously disappeared from their home. This band however, is not one of the classic Western films. Yes, there is the battle-hardened, rugged American males that initially lead the troupe (William Mapother as Parcher and Clancy Brown as Clay), it is two characters typically on the peripheral of American Western’s that come to be the true heroes of the group - Karl Geary plays an Irish Immigrant named Coffey and a former slave named Callaghan played by Sean Patrick Thomas.

After Clay and Parcher are killed, Coffey and Callaghan quickly learn that there’s more to the mysterious disappearances than uncivilized Native Americans, as was originally thought. When Coffey and Callaghan meet a group of Natives, the discussions that take place open the film to a greater discussion on the true nature of American expansion, which is invariably tied to racism. One comment from JT Petty (pictured below) in the Q&A after the film was particularly enlightening. Petty stated that “no movie dealing with American history can avoid the question of “race””.

This question of race in conjunction with American Imperialism is brought to the fore at the conclusion of the film. Callaghan returns to where he left Coffey and several natives to witness a horrific scene (perhaps the most horrific of the film) of his butchered friends. Doug Hutchison, playing military man Henry Victor, assures Coffey that the military will handle it from here. In final, ambiguous shot of the film, we see in Coffey’s face the realization that it is not monsters or natives that are the enemies, but rather the military. I’ll use a brilliant comment by JT Petty from the Q&A to close this post: “There’s monsters, and then there’s the decisions people make which are monstrous”.

great movie that works on so many levels. The type of movie you wish there was a 4 hour directors cut. acting, visuals everything worked, great choice for midnite madness
Comment By Steve Howells At 10/09/2021 1:43 PM
Please logon or register to comment.