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Watch Saloum if you have 80 minutes for a giddy, gunslinging horror thriller

The Senegalese stunner is one of the most memorable movies of the year

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Bangui’s Hyenas — three mercenaries that look impossibly cool — stand against a beautiful painted backdrop of a skyline next to their hostage in Saloum Image: Shudder
Pete Volk (he/they) is Polygon’s Senior Curation Editor, with a particular love for action and martial arts movies.

There are a lot of new movies out this week that you could potentially watch at home. Sure, the new Thor movie is on Disney Plus (as is the new Pinocchio), and Morbius morb’d its way over to Netflix. But if you only have time for one new movie this weekend, make it Saloum, now streaming on Shudder.

A Senegalese thriller from award-winning music video director Jean Luc Herbulot, Saloum is 84 minutes of genre-bending excellence. To talk more about how exactly it mashes genres together would be to give some things away, but from the start it’s apparent how spaghetti Westerns had a strong influence on the film.

The movie follows Bangui’s Hyenas, three legendary mercenaries who crash land in a village in the region of Sine-Saloum after completing a mission in the midst of the 2003 coup in Guinea-Bissau. From the beginning, Saloum’s evocative costuming choices clue you in to each of the three principal characters: When you first meet them, the three leads are wearing identical ponchos, but the camera focuses on their footwear (one wears Versace, one wears sneakers, one goes barefoot) to instantly tell you what you need to know about this eclectic group of friends and colleagues.

Something is not exactly right in the village they land in, and Herbulot (and the cast) expertly ratchet up the tension over the 84-minute running time. That tension explodes into a series of Western-style gunfights with revolvers, all with a beautiful score reminiscent of Ennio Morricone’s work on Sergio Leone’s movies. I will leave the rest for you to discover for yourself, but I will say there’s a reason this movie is on a horror-centric streaming service.

Saloum first premiered at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival, and the movie went on to win awards at Fantastic Fest and the Vancouver International Film Festival. It’s a blast and one of my favorite movies I’ve seen this year, and I’m positively thrilled it’s available for wider viewing now.

Saloum is available to watch on Shudder.

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