From Near Dark to The Wind: The 6 best horror westerns
The horror-western genre was once the province of novelty match-ups, notably 1966’s Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter and the same year’s Billy the Kid Versus Dracula. Both films were the work of William “One Shot” Beaudine, who is much better remembered for the swiftness of his shoots rather than the quality of movies they produced.
In more recent times, the genre has thrown up some genuinely terrific films, including new creepfest The Wind, which opens in select theaters and on VOD, April 5.
Watch an exclusive clip from The Wind above and check out our horror-western recommendations, below.
Near Dark (1987)
Although it takes place in the modern era, this tale of desperado-vampires reeks of the Old West. Director Kathryn Bigelow pillaged the cast of then partner James Cameron’s Aliens, using Jenette Goldstein, Lance Henriksen, and Bill Paxton to equally good effect. The late Paxton in particular is spectacular as a volatile, wisecracking neck-biter who hates it when victims “ain’t been shaved.”
From Fight Club to The Matrix to Being John Malkovich, 1999 was a red-letter year when it came to great, strange movies. But the weirdest film to get a wide release was this tale of cannibalism from British director Antonia Bird. Guy Pearce stars as Boyd, a veteran of the Mexican-American war who captured a Mexican base after accidentally drinking the blood of a fallen comrade and is sent to help man a remote fort in the Sierra Nevadas. One night, Robert Carlyle’s seemingly half-dead stranger arrives at the outpost with a wild story of cannibalism in the mountains, prompting an attempted rescue attempt. What ensues is a tricksy — and, in every sense, meaty, tale.
Dead Birds (2004)
Starring Henry Thomas and Michael Shannon, this underseen gem concerns a group of Civil War deserters-turned bank robbers who make the grave mistake of holing up in a seemingly abandoned plantation. We’ll say no more, except that the movie offers an early example of the joyful genre-melding screenwriter Simon Barrett would later perfect with You’re Next and The Guest.
Bone Tomahawk (2015)
In the directorial debut of S. Craig Zahler (Brawl in Cell Block 99, Dragged Across Concrete), a quartet of Old West townsfolk played by Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox, and Richard Jenkins face off against a clan of cannibal troglodytes. No matter how brutal you might imagine that conflict getting, you’re at best only halfway there.
In director Ted Geoghegan’s supernaturally-tinged survival-thriller, a young Mohawk woman (Kaniehtiio Horn) and her two lovers (Justin Rain, Eammon Farren) are pursued by a band of vengeance-seeking American soldiers. The result mixes beauty and brutality in unforgettable fashion.
The Wind (2019)
In this slow-burn thriller, Caitlin Gerard plays a frontierswoman convinced that someone, or something, is stalking the remote farm she shares with her disbelieving husband (Ashley Zuckerman). Writer Teresa Sutherland and director Emma Tammi brilliantly exploit the sinister, derangement-inducing nature of the West’s seemingly infinite landscape.