Yeah, we’re going with another Weird Western, this time a fusion of horror and cowboy cinema which points out the terrifying trouble with western expansion, not just in terms of the racism but also the after effects of the ecological devastation that mass migration into unclaimed wilderness can bring. Also, there are monsters that puke. Woo!
The Dakota territories, 1879. With nothing else to do because, well, it’s the Dakota territories, an Irishman named Fergus Coffey courts the lovely Maryanne Stewart. Things don’t work out, however, as the Stewarts are suddenly kidnapped in a massacre that leaves the family patriarch a bloody corpse and kills off another family entirely. Coffey grabs cowboys John Clay and William Parcher to help, and they bring along the teenage Dobie Spacks. Since they think they’re hunting Indians, because who else does the white man automatically assume is the villain in a Western, they also join up with the local cavalry, under the command of Henry Victor. Victor likes his torture and genocide a bit too much though, so after realizing that things aren’t going to work out with him and learning of a supposed “Burrower” tribe, the posse leaves the military and brings along the cook, a black man named Walnut Callaghan. Since the Irish are treated about as well as any other minority at this time, Coffey and Callaghan become friends, and the party finds a victim buried alive with a strange wound on her neck. They send Dobie with the girl to town, but he doesn’t make it, because these guys still haven’t put together that it ain’t the local tribes they need to be worrying about. Eventually the posse end up in the woods surrounded by men of the Ute tribe, and Coffey screws up and shoots at someone, causing the natives to retaliate and kill Clay. Parcher gets pissed and tries to use Coffey and Callaghan as bait, only to be attacked by the Burrowers, which are a race of poison-vomiting underground dwellers with backwards knees that hate sunlight and not a Native American tribe at all. The three survive and meet a native woman, who offers to take them to the Ute. She does, and the Ute take Parcher to serve as bait, but he shoots Callaghan. Coffey discovers Maryanne is dead and tries to save Parcher, only to have to fend off the Ute and then the Burrowers, who the Ute poisoned through Parcher’s body. Coffey then tries to find a doctor to save Callaghan and the last surviving Ute to learn the poison that works against the Burrowers, but unfortunately Victor gets there first, kills the Natives, and amputates Callaghan’s leg, which causes him to die.
Do you know what caused the Burrowers to attack humans? It’s because we killed off the buffalo, which was their main source of food. Also, the Burrowers are a bit like spiders, in that they use a paralyzing poison that basically liquefies the internal organs over time so they can drink from the corpse later. It’s a nasty way to go. While the actual Burrowers look ridiculous thanks in part to some cheap CG, they also don’t have teeth, so their nasty baby mouths look like they’ll gum you to death. To add to a bad situation, they prefer to bury their victims alive while the poison takes effect, so guess what? You’re gonna have to spend up to a week knowing you’re fucked before they even get to you. They’re some gross little bastards.
Of course, the real monster is always man, so who comes off looking worse? The spider-people, or the full on racist humans that are happy to torture and kill Natives, as well as any blacks or Irish that get in their way. That said, Henry Victor does have himself a ridiculous handlebar mustache; that mustache is why Doug Hutchison took the part too. It’s vital to the film. I have no idea if he used it in any way to woo Courtney Stodden, but seeing as she was 14 when this movie came out, I really hope not.