Indigenous Horrors at the Hollywood Theatre

 

By Quincy Higuera

Staff Writer

This was my first time at the Hollywood Theatre and I was not disappointed. I walked in and was met by the nostalgic smell of buttery popcorn, the warming scent of pizza from Sizzle Pie and the bass of action packed previews that I could feel in the floor. I got soda, M&M’s, pizza and made my way into the first door on the right and started my movie experience.

I was there to watch Bone Tomahawk, directed by S. Craig Zahler, part of  The Hollywood Theatre’s signature film series highlighting the representation of Native Americans in horror films. The series was programmed by Dr. Kali Simmons, Assistant Professor of Indigenous Nations Studies at Portland State University. 

A different movie was shown every Thursday for the month of February at 7:30pm. 

Bone Tomahawk had elements of every western movie I’ve seen with my grandpa, but I’m not mad at it. I kind of loved it. The film was easy to follow but the random twists and turns kept the whole theater on edge about what could happen next. It was intense, It was funny, and it’s definitely a memorable watch. The Troglodytes are the main antagonists and these Native subhumans are tall, cannibalistic, violent and mean. They only communicate in grunts and yells that sound like bad audio clips of wild animals.

The writing and production of this movie felt a bit rushed, and the storyline was unique but the rest of Bone Tomahawk felt simple. All of the shootouts were random with minimal build up which made it harder for me to be invested in the action due to my confusion. It’s like one moment nothing was happening and then everyone was dead. The violence the Troglodytes inflicted was unexpected and gruesome. Again, one moment nothing is happening, and then somebody’s scalp is missing. The audio effects were cheesy but for me it added an enjoyable element to the film. I will say the visuals made up for the low quality audio. There was a good amount of blood and about 90% of the time it was because the Troglodytes scalped someone or ate them. Watching someone get cut in half by an 8ft tall cannibal was pretty crazy. 

In this movie the Natives definitely got the short end of the stick due to the fact that they’re portrayed as big violent dummies, but at the same time the Troglodytes aren’t exactly an average Native American tribe.

“This is why frontier life is so difficult, not because of the Indians, not because of the elements but because of the idiots.” said Samantha O’Dwyer, the town’s doctor. This quote stood out to me because during that intense time in history, everyone was blaming others and demonizing each other when in reality there’s one common enemy; close-minded people who think their way is the only way.

Native Americans are extremely underrepresented in the media and recently that’s been changing with a new surge of Indigenous creators eager to tell their story through films such as Reservation Dogs, Rez Ball, and even industry-level films like Killer of the Flower Moon. I think the concept for this film series is a great way to expose new audiences to how Indigenous people have been represented over the years especially in genres with huge followings. I would love to see another signature film series like this with more Native Americans, other cultures and other genres as well.

 

Quincy Higuera

Quincy Higuera is a writer from Portland, Oregon. Currently studying Digital Media Communications at Clackamas Community College. Writing has always been a passion, especially when he's writing about his other passions such as music, food, Indigenous culture and more.

Archives