Imagine a mix of “Tremors” and “The Searchers,” and you’ll be at least partially prepared for “The Burrowers,” a horror/Western hybrid that could scare up decent coin as a homevid curio. Writer-director JT Petty (“S&MAN”) takes a surprisingly straightforward and snark-free approach to building suspense and generating shocks in his offbeat mash-up of horse opera and monster rally. But the pacing is too pokey by half, and the payoff is a wrenching disappointment. Indeed, the pic seems to simply stop rather than really end, suggesting Petty may have run out of money before he ran out of ideas.

In the Dakota Territories, circa 1879, a search party sets out to track down those who attacked an isolated family farm, slaughtered the menfolk and ran off with the women and children. A sadistic cavalry officer (Doug Hutchinson) assumes Indians are responsible, and tortures a luckless Ute captive for information. But the real culprits are slug-like subterranean creatures that burrow to the surface only for feeding and breeding. Performances are uneven, but the shot-in-New Mexico indie boasts moody lensing by Phil Parmet and effective creature effects by Robert Hall.

The Burrowers

  • Production: A Lionsgate Films release of a Lionsgate and Blue Star Entertainment production. (International sales: Mandate Intl., Santa Monica, Calif.) Produced by William Sherak, Jason Shuman. Executive producers, Peter Block, John Sacchi. Co-producers, Lauren Kisilevsky, Robert Hall. Directed, written by JT Petty.
  • Crew: Camera (Deluxe color), Phil Parmet; editors, Andy Grieve, Robb Sullivan; music, Joseph LoDuca; production designer, Mark Alan Duran; costume designer, Deborah Everton. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Midnight Madness), Sept. 16, 2008. Running time: 96 MIN.
  • With: With: William Mapother, Karl Geary, Doug Hutchison, Sean Patrick Thomas, Laura Leighton, Clancy Brown.
  • Music By: