Another Western for the Director of ‘Bone Tomahawk’

S. Craig Zahler is heading to the small screen for his next Old West adventure.
Bone Tomahawk
By  · Published on September 17th, 2018

That S. Craig Zahler is a busy fella. When he’s not making movies, he’s writing novels. When he’s not making movies or writing novels, he’s a musician. It wouldn’t surprise me if he was also a painter, a sculptor, and/or a graffiti artist. All I know is that he can’t stop creating art and he’s capable of producing brilliance in every medium he’s touched thus far.

Right now is a good time to be a Zahler fan, as well. His latest movie, Dragged Across Concrete, is currently making the festival rounds and garnering heaps of praise. Elsewhere, he’s teamed up with the Jim Henson Company to bring his own gothic fantasy novel “Hug Chickenpenny: The Panegyric of an Anomalous Child ” to the big screen. His next crime novel, “The Slanted Gutter”, should also be hitting book stores in the near future.

That’s not all…

In an interview with Screen Daily, Zahler revealed that he’s working on a Western series. The unnamed project will be his next focus after Hug Chickenpenny and mark his first foray into television. In the same interview, he also stated that he’d love to work with Netflix. Do we smell a potential collaboration in the works?

I would like to work with Netflix, they’re very upfront, they give you the money and give you creative control. I hope to be in business with them soon, I think they’d be a good partner.

Netflix would be a perfect home for a limited series helmed by Zahler. He’s an auteur who insists on writing, directing, scoring, and having final cut on his projects. He’d definitely benefit from the creative freedom the streaming giant affords their creators, and they’re always looking for fresh original content. It’s a win-win situation.

Additionally, the notion of a Zahler series is exciting. His movies and novels are slow burners that focus on character development, world-building, and circumlocution. He likes to take his time getting to a destination and is prone to the odd detour along the way. A more long-form format like a series will allow him to expand on the trademarks that define his storytelling — especially when it comes to his Westerns.

Zahler is no stranger to the Old West. His first feature, Bone Tomahawk, sees Kurt Russell spearhead a mission into savage terrains to rescue a kidnapped housewife from troglodyte cannibals. While the film is reminiscent of a traditional cowboy adventure yarn in many ways, Zahler also took inspiration from lost world pulp fiction and horror to create his own demented hybrid. But he’d already established these twisted sensibilities prior to his directorial debut.

The first script Zahler ever sold was The Brigands of Rattleborge. Despite topping the 2006 Black List, though, no studio has been ballsy enough to green light the project. Oldboy director Park Chan-Wook was in talks to direct the film at one point, however. The story follows a group of bandits who rob, pillage, and murder their way through a small town during a rainstorm, which leads to a sheriff forming an unlikely alliance with a doctor and embarking on a joint vengeance crusade. Things get bloody… VERY bloody.

His first novel, “A Congregation of Jackals,” is another cold-blooded revenge tale. The story follows a gang of former bank robbers who find themselves lured into a situation that will force them to confront some ghosts from the past that want them dead. Once again, things get very bloody. “Wraiths of the Broken Land,” meanwhile, is an espionage tale that follows a band of heroes who venture across the border to save two sisters from forced prostitution. Ridley Scott was reportedly adapting the latter for Fox a couple of years ago. In this one, kids get shot and men are forced to eat scorpions. You can see why they’re having difficulty making the movie a reality.

All of these stories share certain similarities. Revenge is a recurring theme and it always inspires some thrilling adventures rooted in danger and violent outcomes. The frontier serves to provide moral and physical crucibles for the main protagonists, most of whom are quite unsavory human beings to some extent. But Zahler’s ability to create strong characters and envision uniquely horrifying situations gives everything he writes its own distinct flavor. His work is always identifiable but never repetitive.

That’s why the idea of another Zahler Western is exciting. We know he’s already mastered the genre, but he always brings originality to proceedings that surprises us. Whatever this series is about remains to be seen. However, you can bet your last dollar that a dangerous adventure will be the core component.

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Kieran is a Contributor to the website you're currently reading. He also loves the movie Varsity Blues.