Due to some of the subject matter within this particular slice of horror, let the record show that I'm reviewing this on its merits of being a horror movie as opposed to the story within. In short, it tackles 1879 America and how some people may have seen indigenous tribes back then. Up here in Canada, this is a very touchy subject right now, and I'm honestly hesitant to even review this. But I will do my best, as I do feel like the film has a somewhat appropriate message to convey - basically "the monster here isn't who the characters think".
The film opens one night when a family of settlers is violently taken in the night by an unknown source. This is where their fellow pioneers immediately suspect the surrounding tribes, and they form a posse to set out and find the missing family. Among them, Irish immigrant, Fergus Coffey (Karl Geary), hardened fighters, John Clay (Clancy Brown) and William Parcher (William Mapother), naive teen who keeps screwing up, Dobie Spacks (Galen Hutchison) and former slave, Walnut Callaghan (Sean Patrick Thomas) and if I missed anyone, my bad, but sometimes I rely on Wiki for reminders and it just plain doesn't list any character names. But Doug Hutchison is also a part of this as Henry Victor , and he's just as likable as always (the character you really wanna punch in the nose).
As the posse sets out, they have to endure certain aspects such as the weather and the threat of the surrounding tribes. However, as the film unfolds, they soon learn that the indigenous people of the area are not what is to be feared so much as the monsters they have dubbed "the Burrowers" (not to be confused with "the Borrowers"). These creatures cut their victims and drug them with a paralyzing toxin. Then, the victim gets buried alive and consumed after decomposition has begun. I have to say, kudos to the film for creating such a terrifying creature, and providing the viewing audience with something truly disturbing. The idea of total paralysis followed by what it probably a torturous death is really disturbing, and the last time I saw something close to this was probably 'Serpent and the Rainbow'; also involving a paralyizing drug and getting buried alive.
Setting certain things about this movie aside, they do a pretty good job here with the horror. I do have to give them credit for giving us a period piece horror movie as well - something I think the film industry lacks in a very big way. I mean, think about how much scarier horror can be when you take away something like what modern health care can help with. Things get much more visceral, and the disturbance of it all can build up much more if the victim can't do something we take for granted today like, say, call an ambulance. I further enjoyed the creature design of these burrowers - sort of reminiscent of a small version of the Rancor from 'Return of the Jedi' mixed with a Licker from 'Resident Evil'. It's just plain monstrous and intimidating and you don't wanna run into one.
So given some of the subject matter involved in this one, I do have a hard time just telling certain horror fan to check it out. I think for the most part, it was pretty cool, but there could be some stuff here that has since been dated. I do think the underlying message here is still a good one in that there is more to fear than something we might not understand, and we often use our judgment in some pretty stupid ways. We're also pretty gullible - it takes a long time for these guys to accept that actual monstrous creatures are what they should be worried about. I think that this has the potential to be watched the right way, but I also think that right now this could be a very touchy one for my fellow Canadians, and to skip it would be perfectly fine. I'd probably sooner recommend something a little more educational at this point. But if you feel so inclined, this can be found on Amazon.