In Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan, Admiral James T. Kirk's old nemesis, in the midst of doing some wrathing, recalled the old Klingon proverb, "Revenge is a dish best served cold." I'm going to assume Khan Noonien Singh probably loved the hell out of revenge films. I could see Mr. Singh firing up the Betamax SL 5000 or visiting his own version of the Pinehaven Cinema 6 on Rivers Avenue to gorge on films like Female Prisoner Scorpion 701 or They Call Her One Eye. There's nothing like a good old fashioned revenge flick. Sometimes the revenge is swift and bloody, other times it's slow and unnerving but the end result is usually cathartic for the viewer. Director Ted Geohagen's second feature, Mohawk, is no different.
Set in New York in 1814, with the war between Britain and America in full swing, Native Americans are trying to remain neutral as the warring sides threaten to engulf them. As the film starts with a hatchet to a tree, we are quickly placed in the middle of a campfire disagreement. Native warriors Oak (Kaniehtiio Horn) and Calvin Two Rivers (Justin Rain) and Oak's mother are fighting over Oak's intimate relationship with Calvin and, more notably, Joshua Pinsmall (Eamon Farren), a British man, while the violence slowly encroaches upon them. Despite their attempts to remain hidden away from the conflict, Calvin decides to bring the war to them when he impulsively burns down an American encampment in the middle of the night, leaving those inside the bivouac a bunch of crispy critters. His bullheadedness triggers the wrath of the menacing Hezekiah Holt (Erza Buzzington), a man who leads a ragtag band of soldiers, with one goal in mind: eradicate as many Mohawks as he can. As with most revenge films, things eventually come to a head. When he makes a run-of-the-mill stop at a tiny pond to splash water in his face, Joshua is surprised by Myles Holt (Ian Colletti), his soon to be his dad and his motley crew. Suffice to say, lives are lost and ultimately things get very ugly, very quickly leading Oak on a vengeance quest that would make Meiko Kaji and Christina Lindeberg proud.
I assumed going into this film that I would dig it because of Goehagen's previous film, the gnarly haunted horror flick We Are Still Here, as well the past works of local horror-nut-turned-novelist Grady Hendrix (My Best Friend's Exorcism, Paperbacks From Hell). I didn't realize I'd fanboy out on it as much as I did afterwards, however. I assumed going in that I was guaranteed a throwback to flicks like Last House On The Left or Fight For Your Life. This history horror hybrid was that and more. Mohawk is thrilling. It's scary. It's moving. It's brutal. It's bloody. It's passionate. And like Goehagan's previous film, it's gnarly.
Mohawk manages to gather disparate elements that could threaten to derail the film but seem to work in just the opposite way thanks to the film's deft direction. A low-budget historical drama that utilizes one location (the woods) with mostly unknown actors reads like a recipe for disaster. Goehagen makes it work. The performances, particularly by Colletti and Horn, were much richer than they had any right to be considering this could just be a simple, visceral revenge flick. The piece's political underbelly gives the triumph and tragedy more weight when the smoke literally clears at the conclusion. I'll refrain from heaping more praise on the film simply because I prefer to walk away from this review with a sliver of dignity and not reeking of fanboy fumes. Oops. Too late. I'll conclude by simply saying that I only wish I could've seen Mohawk on the big screen.