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The Horseman
IMDB Rating: 6.6/10 from 16 votes
Release: 6 July 2010 (Netherlands) /

The Horseman

Genre: Crime, Thriller
Director:
Stars: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Synopsis: Christian, a divorced father and white collar businessman grieves over the complicated death of his daughter. When a video arrives anonymously in the mail, featuring his daughter heavily intoxicated and mistreated, Christian sets out on a reckless journey to find answers. Fuelled by rage and sorrow, the death toll quickly rises as he uncovers an ugly truth. Along the way he meets Alice, a young runaway not unlike his daughter and a fragile friendship begins to unfold. Written by Anonymous

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Critic Reviews


He's in pest control. The pests are human; specifically, pornographers. And though the name badge on his denim work dungarees says 'Christian', his ethical sensibilities have more in common with the Old Testament than with turning the other cheek.

The apocalyptically titled 'The Horseman' is the latest in a galloping line of 'vigilante dad' films stretching back to Ingmar Bergman's 'The Virgin Spring', in which a father, usually a divorcée or widower, made nutty by grief, ruthlessly picks off those responsible for violating and/or offing their daughters, nieces or wives. 'What would you do?' these films ask, like a caring Dr Miriam Stoppard. Before supplying the answer in the voice of Michael Winner: 'blow their balls off, dear!'

In Paul Schrader's 'Hardcore', for example, George C Scott's single-parent Calvinist makes merry hell in the porn pits of Los Angeles, after spotting his runaway daughter Kristen in a blue movie. While in Steven Soderbergh's 'The Limey', Terence Stamp's ex-con investigates his daughter Jenny's suspicious death in - where else - LA, leaving a trail of dead heavies behind him. While the 2006 Danish animation Princess sees a former missionary taking bloody revenge on those contributing to his porn star sister's sordid demise. Charles Bronson, especially, has form here: in 1958's 'Gang War', his mild-mannered maths teacher becomes self-appointed judge, jury and executioner when his wife is murdered by mobsters. While in 1974's 'Death Wish', his mild-mannered architect (was anyone buying this, by the way?) turns squinty-eyed vigilante after muggers rape and kill his wife and daughter. To lose one family to muggers may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness, as Oscar Wilde observed, before Bronson shot him.

The common denominator for many of these films - or to put it another way, the movie they're half-inching their plots from - is Mike Hodges' Britcrime classic 'Get Carter', the daddy of 'relative retribution' movies, in which Michael Caine's one-man murder-machine avenges the death of his brother and the virtual rape of his niece Doreen, coerced into a stag flick called 'Teacher's Pet' by the plum-faced fellow who went on to pull pints for Arthur and Terry at The Winchester.

In The Horseman the anonymously-posted porn video goes by the lovely name of 'Young City Sluts II', whose leading lady Jesse latterly resides in an urn in her dad's van, having expired on a tide of booze, opiates and bodily fluids post-shoot. If nothing else, this film underlines the fact that human ashes do not look in the least like fine, velvety sand; they look like kitty litter. Roving through rural Queensland, Christian (Peter Marshall) attempts to restore the karmic balance, leaving the distributor, director and performers with faces resembling bowls of peach melba, and a shortfall of testicles. A scene in which one leery larrikin has fishing hooks threaded through his Niagaras nearly rivals Hard Candy for leg-crossing trauma.

"Ozzie boys terrorising each other!" is how Quentin Tarantino describes the golden era of Australian exploitation movies in Mark Hartley's fantastic documentary Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story Of Ozploitation! And Steven Kastrissios's unflinching debut feature is just that: a riper slice of old school-style Ozploitation you could hardly wish for. However, as Tarantino also emphasised, "The reason you watch exploitation cinema is to have those moments when you're like, 'is this actually happening?! Am I actually seeing this?!'" And the first time The Horseman whips up a skull-soufflé with the conversational end of a crowbar, it might well make you blink, or at least reconsider seeking employment with the adult film industry. Yet within the first half-hour The Horseman finds itself trotting up a cul-de-sac.

This is bum-numbingly repetitive stuff: the Horseman locates target, and the lumbering Ocker-Beasts roll around on the floor, until the Horseman finally gets the better of his opponent with something blunt. Repeat six times until the audience relinquishes the urge to exist or becomes fixated on a rogue popcorn husk stuck in the back of the throat.

It's a real pity, because buried among the endless stabbings, gougings and nipple abuse (not to mention an unlikely scene when our middle-aged anti-hero dispatches three muscled twentysomethings single-handedly) there's clearly a classier movie struggling to get a word in edgeways. Aside from a solid central performance by Marshall as the deeply troubled, self-harming anti-hero, there's some interesting, complex stuff surrounding issues of culpability (Jesse, we discover, entered the industry entirely of her own volition), some fine technical flourishes, and good, naturalistic rapport between Christian and the young hitchhiking runaway Alice (Caroline Marohasy) he meets on the road, and with whom he comes to share an ersatz father-daughter relationship; a plot strand which also turns up in Hardcore - the ultra-devout Jake Van Dorn striking up a similar bond with Season Hubley's young hooker Niki.

So while The Horseman mightn't be the most accomplished entry in the recent New Wave of Australian horrors (see also Greg McLean's 'Wolf Creek' and 'Jamie Blanks' 'Storm Warning') this isn't to suggest it's altogether bound for the knacker's yard. There's enough potential here to suggest director Kastrissios is definitely a name to watch. He just needs to trust the fact that audiences are just as interested in characterisation and narrative as in seeing white walls repeatedly decorated with 'Neural Mist' by Dulux.

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