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M.I.O. Movie Review: Tenkiller

Directed by Oklahoma filmmakers Jeremy and Kara Choate, Tenkiller feels like a dreamy family nightmare, served in Family Dollar cups.

9:41 AM EST on December 13, 2022

With Reservation Dogs ushering a golden epoch of Oklahoma-derived entertainment, the small towns of this beloved state are now giving us rural folklore in a death-metal etude with Tenkiller, a sleep-drenched shot of cowboy cocaine in a feed-store ballcap.

Taking place near the defeated Lake Tenkiller in Eastern Oklahoma, this M.I.O. straight-to-Amazon flick is basically about a pair of brothers trying to navigate their trashy surroundings and depressing life in rural Oklahoma.

Leon is an 18-year-old who works in a nameless machine shop, trying to cope with the death of his best friend, while Beck, a middle school kid stuck in the Oklahoma education system, serves as his loyal companion.

Their dad is a depressive who pines for his ex-wife, while the ex-wife and her man, the big bad step-dad Dalton (James Allan Pershing), is a truly terrifying figure of diseased corporal punishment.

As the rickety truck goes down the road, the two kids take a few days to escape at Lake Tenkiller. Leon then gets in trouble with the law, which ignites the rage of Dalton, leading to terrible consequences for them all.

Tenkiller, thank God, is not a picturesque travelog for the Oklahoma Film Commission.

It has a Gummo-like atmosphere, leering at the dead-end town and its inhabitants, making it all so appealing and all so tenable.

Complemented by the drowning score of Chat Pile – the local band behind Patrick's song of the Oklahoma summer – Tenkiller feels like a dreamy Oklahoma nightmare, served in Family Dollar cups.

A slow-burning movie, directors Jeremy Choate and Kara Choate take dried perspiration and propaned barbecue and put all it in filmstock.

Leon and Beck, played by real-life brothers Ian Walker and Beck Walker, have a definite chemistry on the screen, one that makes this duo grow around so much loss.

The star of the movie, though, is Dalton—a character that came straight out of a strip club in Valley Brook at 2:30 P.M. Played by James Allan Pershing, he is one-hundred miles of bad road. I liked his performance, but I am scared of it.

Tenkiller is a wonderfully told tale of Oklahoma’s trademarked oppressive ennui, something that the world may finally understand.


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