'Mohawk': Four Reasons To Watch This Brutal Historical Horror Film

Ted Geoghegan's Mohawk hits select theaters and VOD this Friday, March 2, and you should make a point of seeking it out. This deft blend of history and horror is not an easy sell to a general audience, but it's definitely worth seeing. Here are four key reasons you're going to want to watch this film.A brutal, unrelenting, well-crafted thriller, Mohawk is being sold as a horror film, but it might not be the type of horror film you expect. There's plenty of horror within its frames, but if you're expecting something outwardly supernatural or loaded with jump-scares, that's not what this film is offering. Instead, it spins a tale of twisted cruelty; of horrible people who don't realize how horrible they truly are, all against a historic setting. What Geoghegan and co-writer Grady Hendrix have crafted here is something akin to Last House on the Left meets Last of the Mohicans.Set over the course of one very, very long day during the War of 1812, Mohawk finds two Mohawk warriors, Oak and Calvin Two Rivers, and their British companion Joshua pursued by the ugliest of ugly Americans. The Americans, a band of soldiers lead by the zealous Hezekiah, are masters of their own domain – even though the domain they're traipsing through doesn't belong to them. The American troops have forced themselves into the lives of Oak, Calvin Two Rivers and Joshua just as they've forced their way onto the land. Director Geoghegan has likened Mohawk to a "home-invasion film where North America is the home", and that's perhaps the most apt summation of the film. What follows is a long, bloody pursuit, where the Americans refuse to let up and return to their fort, instead content to hunt down and kill Oak and company. Mohawk isn't the flashiest genre picture of the year, nor is it the most easily digestible. This is an intense, uncompromising blend of history and horror; a film that may be set in the 1800s but has roots firmly in the modern hellscape that is 2018. Here are four reasons you should watch Mohawk.

1. The Strong Female Lead

While almost every character in Mohawk has their fair share of screentime, the lead is Oak, played by Kaniehtiio Horn. Horn does a lot with a little – low on dialogue, big on long, calculating moments of silence. The actress does most of the heavy lifting with her eyes – we can always sense the gears turning behind them; the sense that she's mulling over thousands of possible scenarios, most of them not very promising, before she acts. Oak doesn't want to get drawn into the conflict with the soldiers, but she soon has no choice. And after being the hunted for most of the film, the tables eventually turn, and she becomes the hunter. The character is incredibly cool, in nearly every sense of the word. Geoghegan and Hendrix's script doesn't give the character big speeches; instead, they let her actions speak loudest, and Horn's calculated performance brings it all home. 

2. Great Characters

In addition to Oak, the bulk of the characters in Mohawk are wonderfully drawn. While the Americans are unquestionably the villains here, the script is smart enough to present them as three-dimensional individuals rather than snickering one-note bad guys. The true masterstroke of the American characters is that they never realize they're supposed to be the villains. They're righteous in their bloody quest. Ezra Buzzington is the standout as Hezekiah, the leader of the bunch, who wants nothing more than to destroy Oak and company. The men he surrounds himself aren't as bloodthirsty; in fact, most of the time, they keep urging Hezekiah to cut his losses and head back to the fort. Yet at the same time, when put on the spot to commit atrocities, even the most reluctant of soldiers will give in and spill blood. 

As for our heroes, the script fleshes them out considerably without ever becoming too heavy-handed. Justin Rain's Calvin Two Rivers is the more hot-headed of the bunch; the one who would happily pick a fight with the Americans while the others want to keep their distance. Eamon Farren, as the mild-mannered Brit Joshua, has his own set of principles, and when the bloodshed begins, he comes to regret them. Oak, Calvin and Joshua are actually engaged in a polyamorous relationship, which Geoghegan and Hendrix handle with a deft touch. The open relationship between the three is presented matter-of-factly, and there's never a moment in the film where an outsider character draws attention to it. These three individuals simply love each other, and the film presents this in a thoughtful, humble manner. I kept waiting for one of the American characters to pick up on this relationship and exploit it for some sort of thematic conflict, and was pleasantly surprised when it didn't happen. 

3. The Latest Film From the Director of We Are Still Here

Mohawk is the latest slice of indie horror from the filmmaker behind We Are Still Here. If you've somehow avoided seeing that gloriously gory haunted house flick, you need to rectify that immediately (it's streaming on Amazon Prime Video). As he did with We Are Still Here, director Ted Geoghegan makes Mohawk a fine-tuned, highly entertaining blend of genres. One wrong move could sink a movie like this, but Geoghegan is skilled enough to make Mohawk work. The filmmaker is now two-for-two, and it'll be a treat to see what he does next. 

A historical setting may not be the easiest thing to pull off on a limited budget, but Geoghegan is able to use the primarily woodland setting to his advantage. There's no chance of modern-day elements creeping into the frame while we're engulfed in so much wilderness. Mohawk isn't the flashiest film, and the production design isn't overflowing with period details. Yet this is ultimately a great example of independent filmmaking at its best; independent filmmaking that isn't afraid to take chances. Rather than shy away from complications presented by the film's era, Mohawk's director embraces them, and finds ways to make them work. 

4. It Never Lets Up

Viewer be warned: Mohawk is brutal as hell. And it never lets up. There's about 10 or 15 minutes of calm at the start of this film, so my advice is to savor those scenes. Take a deep breath. Relax. And then brace yourself, because once Mohawk gets going, it sets off a bloody sprint towards the finish. This is both a blessing a curse. Squeamish moviegoers may not be up for Mohawk's particular brand of brutality, which includes severed tongues, obliterated bones, decapitations, and more.

If you can stomach the film's nasty nature, though, you'll be rewarded with an unflinching, unrelenting experience. Best of all, though, is the pacing. The characters in Mohawk are constantly in motion, always hurtling forward. The very nature of the story ensures that Mohawk never hits a lull. This swiftness is one of the film's strongest elements – there's almost no time for us to catch our breath as we're swept up in the film's fast-paced, blood-soaked journey.


Mohawk opens in select theaters and arrives on VOD & HD Digital on March 2, 2018.