I got home from work last night and I decided to sit down and watch a movie. I have a lot of free time on my hands that I don't know how to properly fill just yet.... shut up, I'm working on it. Anyway, I randomly thought of that Kurt Russell Western I'd heard about a few years ago, and so I tracked down Bone Tomahawk.
Bloody hell, that was not a good movie to watch right before bed.
Long story short; a sadistic tribe of Native American cannibals (nicknamed the "Troglodytes") kidnap a few settlers, a posse is formed and a shit storm ensues. I don't want to get into too much detail, because despite this whole blog post it's a great movie and you should totally go watch it, but there's this scene that has really stayed with me.
Gore/Trigger/Puke Warning for the next paragraph. Also, spoilers?
This deputy is stripped naked and held by a pair of Troglodytes while a third scalps him... and he's held so tightly that all he can do is hang there and scream. Then his own scalp is stuffed into his mouth and it's nailed in there with a wooden stake. After that he's spun upside down and the Troglodytes proceed to hack between his legs with a bone axe, and you hear the deputy screaming and then whimpering through his scalp and then he goes mercifully silent just before his legs are pulled and his whole torso splits apart like a chicken wing...
It was fucking horrific.
There's another scene where the settlers come across the women of this tribe of cannibals, and they're all pregnant... but also armless, legless and with stakes in their eyes. The film goes to great lengths to both show and tell you that this tribe is a bunch of horrific fucking monsters. There's even an Native American who lives with the settlers who straight up tells the posse that if they go looking for this tribe then they're all going to die.
Just the sheer brutality of this tribe was enough to turn my stomach. It's not so much the gore, though I'm no fan of torture porn I've seen enough zombie movies to have become used to it by now, no it was the conscious intent and willful disregard for human life and dignity that did me in. How far do you have to stray from any kind of moral system, or even your own innate humanity, to be able to hack apart another person while they're still alive? How do you even dehumanize another human to the point where they're just meat, not even a living thing that needs to be quickly killed and then eaten but tortured to death and then eaten? How do you get to a stage where you can eat people and impregnate women with no arms, legs or eyes? What has to happen to a person for them to accept that kind of behavior?
It made me think of this story I read back in university, I'm sorry but I can't remember if it was the Aztecs or the Incas... but this king or priest (fuck, I'm butchering this story) had been overthrown and so his former subjects tied him up into a ball. Then they rolled him down the stone steps of the temple and kicked him around until his back broke. Just... the sheer level of malice required to kick someone until their back breaks baffles and horrifies me. How do you actively make someone's life so full of pain and suffering that they'd choose death just to escape it? The fact that someone could do these sorts of things is terrible to think about, because if one of our species can do it then that means that any one of us could do it too.
But Bone Tomahawk had one last card to play, in the form of Matthew Fox's character - a smooth talking, well dressed, ladies man who is dead eye with a six shooter. He's soft spoken, intelligent and funny all the way through the film, and then half way through you find out that he's an Indian Hunter who has killed 116 Indians in his life. He is a fantastic foil for the Troglodytes; they may use bone weapons and eat other humans but this guy, who is wrapped in the finery of civilization, is a mass murderer as well. He's never married, he doesn't have kids, he lost his mother and sisters to an Indian raid when he was ten and his whole life has just become this hate-fueled quest for vengeance against them.
The shit we people can do to one another keeps me up at night. I'm used to post apocalyptic stories where people are forced into terrible circumstances and are pushed beyond the limits of morality, I deal with fictional stories about this stuff on a daily basis. But then I go an open a history book and I'm absolutely appalled at some of the things people have done, some of this shit makes you ashamed of the human species.
I hate to end this with a cliche, but they say that truth is stranger than fiction. Well, it's also infinitely more horrific as well. I can pull some twisted shit out of my arse (metaphorically speaking, of course) but it will never compare to some of the horrors that have really happened. The French Revolution, The Raft of the Medusa, Colonial Australia, literally any place communism has come into power, the horrors of fiction can never match these horrors... because they actually happened.