Coyote Woman Poster

Coyote Woman (2024) Review

Stefan Ruf says that Coyote Woman, his follow-up to Motorpsycho Maniacs aka Sex Terrorists on Wheels, was inspired by both Ralph Nelson’s Soldier Blue and Bruno Mattei’s Scalps. That combination of critically acclaimed sadism and grindhouse sleaze certainly caught my attention and all but demanded I give it a review.

Deep Water (Cedric Jonathan, Clickbait, Zoombies) and his warriors attack a family of settlers, scalping the parents and abducting the two daughters Iris (Kennedy Wilson, Muñeca, Eyes) who escapes on the way back to their village, and Cynthia (Jaqueline McNulty, The Great Turkey Miracle) who is adopted into the tribe.

Ten years later, J.J. Glanton (Craig Nigh, Fear the Walking Dead, The Tutor) and his right-hand man Judge Holden (Van Quattro, End of Days, Alien AI: Abducted) decide they’ve had enough of the Texas Rangers and decide to go into business for themselves as scalp hunters. They’re promptly hired by the now grown Iris (Brenna Jones, Hyde, Permanent Vacation) to wipe out the band of Comanches that killed her family.

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Coyote Woman’s publicity also makes much of the claim that “Judge Holden and JJ Glanton’s characters were based on the notorious scalp hunters from Blood Meridian, the first time these real-life characters have appeared on the screen.” That’s only partially true.

Glanton was indeed a historical figure whose bloodthirsty career was ended, ironically enough, when he was scalped and killed by members of the Quechan tribe. Judge Holden on the other hand only appears in one contemporary account of Glanton’s activities. Nothing else has been found to prove he existed, or who he might have been based on.

Matters of historical accuracy aside, the script by Ruf and John Herndon (Frame Switch, Motorpsycho Maniacs) pits them and their crew against not just Chief Coughing Buffalo (Nik L. Guerra, Into the Wild Frontier) and Deep Water, now renamed Stupid Water due to his fondness fore firewater, but also Cynthia (Larissa Dali, The Omicron Killer. Evil for Dinner), who has grown into the warrior Coyote Woman.

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Their former commanding officer Major Albert V. Adamson, an homage to the late Al Adamson, director of Five Bloody Graves, Lash of Lust and so many other grindhouse notables, played by his frequent collaborator the late Gary Kent (Danger God, Dracula vs. Frankenstein) is not pleased with these developments. He dispatches Captain Isaac Burton (Don Daro, Scare Package, No Chance) and Sergeant “Sticky Joe” Joseph (Michael L Garcia Jr., Sacred Mask, Free Dead or Alive), who bear more than a passing resemblance to Terrance Hill and Bud Spencer, to help protect the Comanches.

Coyote Woman has the look and feel of an extremely low budget film, and as such never manages to look like it’s taking place anytime but in the present. Modern clothes, jewellery that is very obviously made from plastic beads and other anachronisms are everywhere. It gives the film a feel like Alex Cox’s wildly anachronistic Tombstone Rashomon, and more than once I expected the sheriff to arrive in a police car. It doesn’t go to that extreme, but late in the film, one character does produce a folding bicycle to make their escape on.

If you can get past that, however, Coyote Woman is an obviously heartfelt tribute to the nastier side of the Western genre, especially the ones from Italy. It’s brutal, cynical and filled with violent moments, multiple scalpings, a skull split in half, a fetus torn from its mother’s body, etc. The effects for these scenes are practical and appropriately cheesy. A beheading and other computer rendered effects on the other hand are awful by any standards.

If you can get past that, however, Coyote Woman is an obviously heartfelt tribute to the nastier side of the Western genre, especially the ones from Italy. It’s brutal, cynical and filled with violent moments, scalping, a fetus torn from its mother’s body, etc. The effects for these scenes are practical and appropriately cheesy. A CGI beheading on the other hand is awful by any standards.

The characters frequently sound like their dialogue has been translated into English and then dubbed into the film. It’s a nice touch, although lines like “That’s actually kinda hot.” and talk about asylum seekers and illegal aliens contribute to that Alex Cox inspired anachronistic feel I mentioned earlier.

With its low budget and its tendency to play around with reality, Coyote Woman will not please everyone. But if you love grindhouse Westerns and don’t mind the occasional weirdness, you’ll enjoy this as much as I did, It’s proof the exploitation film isn’t dead, even if it has picked up a little art house DNA along the way.

Coyote Woman is available on Digital Platforms via Film Hub. You can check the film’s Facebook page for more details.

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