Wednesday, 1 December 2010

The Horseman

Title: The Horseman
Director: Steven Kastrissios
Released: 2008
Staring: Peter Marshall, Caroline Marohasy, Brad McMurray, Jack Henry, Evert McQueen, Christopher Sommers. Bryan Probets, Steve Tandy

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Plot: Christian is a divorced father grieving over the recent death of his daughter, only to be pushed over the edge when he receives a particularly nasty porn video through the post, featuring his recently deceased daughter, whose death it would seem is connected to this tape. Fuelled by rage, Christian sets out on a violent revenge fuelled roadtrip, to find the men behind the tape.

Review: From the outset this film might seem like so many of the other disposable by the numbers revenge thrillers of late, especially as it opens with Christian introducing one of the men, whom we can only assume is responsible for his daughters death, to the business end of a crowbar as Director Kastrissios films it all with an unflinching eye as the blows rain home while he goes about his crude and amateurish method of interrogation, yet what Kastrissios has created here is in fact a thoughtfully plotted and grimly brutal thriller, which despite the plot, coming from what is honestly being pretty well trodden ground, having been reworked numerous times since the godfather of relative retribution movies “Get Carter” (1971) perfected the blue print, spawning unintentionally a running theme between these films, who frequently have a link in some way to the porn industry, which continues right up to the equally noteworthy “Princess” (2006) in which a former missionary hunts down those responsible for his porn star sisters demise, yet despite this all being familiar territory Kastrissios still manages to bring something new to the game, through some stylish editing and original shocks as it manages to rise above just being another torture porn title, as he avoids just going for cheap shocks over substance.

Another point worth certainly noting with this film would be that unlike so many other titles in the genre, this particular road trip of revenge, on which Christian finds himself on is never shown as bringing him any form of joy or happiness, with the path of revenge being shown as being a lonely and isolated one, while it’s also clear that he isn’t getting any kind of pleasure out of having to resort to the primitive and brutal means he does, to find out the required information he needs, while at the same time clearly seeing no other way of finding closure to his daughters death, as he shows no quarms about resorting to such means while frequently being shown as being constantly emotionally numb, frequently carving his arms in a bid to feel anything atoll, as Kastrissios attempts to create with this film a study of how grief can affect us, rather than just focusing purely on blind hate and revenge, which is traditionally the more popular route for a film of this kind. Still its really only though through Alice (Marohasy), that he finds truly finds a purpose in life again, for although they might both be lost souls, he still in someway feels he can help her, becoming almost like a surrogate parent figure to her, while in turn Alice seems to help him to retain what few shreds of humanity he still maintains, as he only become increasingly drawn into a world were revenge is all that matters. This relationship could easily be compared to that of Travis and Iris in “Taxi Driver” (1976) and whom Travis faces numerous bad guys to rescue at the films climax, in the much the same way we see here, in one of the more less plausible moment, as Christian goes truly postal on the now disposable minions, who stand between him and Alice, who it by this point is portrayed as Christians sole hope of salvation, from this world of violence and bloodshed he has now created for himself.

Still if one thing is clear though after watching this film, it would be that Kastrissios is a director who loves a metaphor, seeing how he names our antihero the biblical name of “Christian”, while keeping his methods of dispatch clearly Old Testament, while reworking his day job of being in pest control, with the pests now the human scum who murdered his daughter, even the title portrays him as this apocalyptic figure his is coming after these men and bringing all kinds of hell with him, as he drives through the outback, with his white van replacing the white steed of death. True these might seem like Kastrissios is trying to hammer home the message regarding Christians quest for revenge, that he’s not necessarily a bad man, but rather a man trying to restore the balance in his life and while the almost continuous stream of killings, verges towards becoming tiresome, especially when he runs out of back story to fill in the gaps in Christians back story.

The violence if anything is certainly creative here, with the some noteworthy moments involving not only fish hooks being attached one guys testicles, but also finally answering the question of why it’s not advisable to stick a bicycle pump in your penis as another man can safely account for here in scenes equally comparable to the leg crossing moments of torture seen in "Hard Candy" (2005). It’s also worth nothing that although the majority of fights frequently verge on the side of ridiculous especially during the finale, were Christian proves pretty spritely for a middle aged man as he is frequently shown taking on much younger and seemingly fitter opponents and winning, though these fights are not beautifully choreographed brawls, but instead shot with a very raw and realistic edge, as they frequently break into floored grapples, usually followed by the introduction of a blunt object of some description, for which Christian is nothing if not creative, especially when it comes to turning his surrounding into potential weapons, even though the majority of his kills are devised from the everyday tools of his trade, as he manages to find a number of increasingly sadistic ways of utilising them. Still the majority of the violence, especially the more graphic moments are implyed rather than shown, which no doubt is for the best and keeps the film from becoming to grimey, while ensure that it's not just written off as yet another torture porn style movie.
I really want to like this film more, but it actually suffers from trying to overdo the revenge aspects of this film as strange as that might sound, this is especially true when you look at the body count as it seems that Christian is working his way through the production crew of an indie feature than a grimy porn film, with the amount of people on his revenge list and it's this almost conveyor belt like experience of revenge that detracts strongly from the film overall, even though there are some touching moments between Christian and Alice, by the time the big evil of the film has shown up, it already feels far too overblown which although unusual to say about revenge films in general, were the higher the body count, the better the film, this is certainly not the case here and it's this slip in focus from Kastrissios, which stops the film from being a great film, rather than merely a good film, especially when it's not really giving the audience anything that they havn't seen before, with perhaps the exception of revenge methods, were this film is certainly nothing short of original in that respect.


  1. Great review. Almost agree with everything you said. I didn't think the end was overblown, though you make a good point. If it was more underplayed, I'm not sure the pay off would be there.

    I was expecting the usual revenge movie and got a little more, so I was happy, but overall, nothing groundbreaking.

  2. Thanks Becky, though I still feel this film was a whole lot better than the overrated "Dead Mans Shoes", which I guess had alot to do with Christian being a more likeable character, that the audience can relate to rather than just a cold blooded psycho.


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