Cowboy Killer (2008)

DVD Cover (Rivercoast Films)
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Overall Rating 41%
Overall Rating
Ranked #12,685
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Review by Chad
Added: September 8, 2008
I may be a huge horror geek, but when it comes to movies, there's really not a whole lot of genres and types of films that I'll completely refuse to watch. Animation is one, musicals is another, and westerns round out that little trio, so it should come as no surprise that I wasn't too excited when Cowboy Killer showed up on my desk. Granted, I knew from the start that this was not your typical western as the filmmakers were going for a hybrid horror / comedy / western type of release, but regardless, my lack of interest in the days of cowboys and shootouts caused me to put this one off for a while (a lackluster trailer that did nothing for my interest certainly didn't help). However, unlike certain other reviewers out there, I make an effort to watch and review every last film that gets sent my way, so I went ahead and popped this one in earlier tonight. To my surprise, I not only enjoyed the movie, but I actually enjoyed the hell out of it.

The storyline is incredibly simple, and it centers on Roy (Paul Bailey), an old-time cowboy who has rolled into town for one last hurrah. The problem is that the mindset of your typical cowboy doesn't mesh too well with today's civilized world. In the old days, it was perfectly acceptable to put a bullet in somebody if they looked at you funny, but that doesn't fly these days. Back then, if you wanted a woman, you just had to make sure that your gun was bigger than that of the next guys and she was yours. These days, we've got two words for that: kidnapping and rape. These newfangled laws don't matter to Roy, however, as our smooth-talking hero sets out to get the girls, slaughter anyone he doesn't like, and of course, find a good spot for his horse to sleep at night. It doesn't take long for him to kill the wrong people though, and thus, a posse forms with revenge on their minds. Will Roy be able to ride off into the sunset with a new love (or at least a piece of one), or will the film end with vigilante justice?

On paper, the idea of a serial killer cowboy doesn't sound like it would work; hell, I didn't think it would, and even the trailer couldn't change that preconceived notion. I fully expected to pop this in and hate it, and the general idea just didn't sound like it would work - western fans wouldn't enjoy the horror aspect, and horror fans wouldn't enjoy the cowboys and the six-shooters. That's where the biggest shock of the film comes from: it's really not much of a western. Sure, the guy dresses and acts like a cowboy, and yes, he does ride a horse, but to call this a true western would be akin to saying that Friday the 13th is about a serial killing hockey goalie. The film may center around a fellow who looks the part, but the audience quickly realizes that the guy in that mask or decked out in that outfit transcends what his choice of attire typically exemplifies.

The Friday the 13th comparison is doubly valid, as if I had to describe Cowboy Killer in a single word, it would be "slasher." Boiling the plot down to its barest of elements, the film is indeed a slasher that seems to have come from the olden days, back when slashers were king and filmmakers were in a constant race to outdo one another with their outrageous characters and the levels of violence. All of the ingredients are here: a villain who is despicable enough that the audience wants to see dead but just cool enough to keep the audience wanting to see more of him, plenty of kills, just the right amount of gratuitous nudity (hey, it worked in the aforementioned slashers), and of course, over-the-top methods of execution.

To make another comparison, I'd like to point out a little film called Shaun of the Dead. Much like Shaun, this film injects the story with a fair amount of humor but never to the point of completely watering down the horror elements. Yes, you will laugh a few times (maybe more than a few), but you'll never forget that you're watching an honest-to-goodness horror flick. Far too many filmmakers fail to strike a proper balance between the comedy and the horror elements of their films, but for my tastes, Cowboy Killer nailed it.

As an added bonus, I was a huge fan of both the character Roy and the guy who played him. Much like the other icons of horror, Roy is a guy that you simply can't get enough of. It doesn't matter if he's sweet-talking the ladies, breaking out Clint Eastwood references on homophobic bar patrons while kicking their asses, or killing innocent victims in the grisliest of fashions... when Roy is on screen, you won't be able to take your eyes off of him. Paul Bailey is perfectly cast as the man in question, and though I wouldn't go so far as to call him a great actor (though I had no problems with him either), I will say that he was perfectly believable in the role. It would be easy to turn this character into something too stereotypical or corny, but Mr. Bailey made it work and then some.

Overall, Cowboy Killer is not a perfect film. It feels a little padded during a scene or two and the budget shows during certain death sequences, but what it lacks in perfection, it more than makes up for with entertainment. If you're a fan of well-written, original horror flicks with a splash of comedy thrown in, make sure to pick this one up when the DVD becomes available. 8.5/10.
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