Australian director/writer Steven Kastrissios doesn’t so much explode onto the scene with his brutal low-budget debut film, as slice, bludgeon, and savagely beat his way there.
Pest control worker Christian (Peter Marshall) is grieving for the untimely death of his daughter, found choked to death on her own vomit after a heroin overdose, when he receives a video in the post. The video is a pornographic movie, showing his drugged-up daughter being roughly violated by a group of men. Packing his toolbox Christian heads out to avenge the murder of his daughter by torturing and killing everyone who was involved in her death. On his travels he soon meets Alice (Caroline Marohasy), a young runaway hitchhiker, with whom he starts to develop something of a father-daughter relationship.
This is not a movie of choreographed fighting and high-definition slow-motion effects. The Horseman is gritty and savage, shot on grainy hand-held digital, and portraying the kind of sloppy bone-crunching brutality in the fight scenes that one would expect if someone was really fighting for their life. On top of this, Christian puts his toolbox to good use as he tortures his victims for information (including a use for a football pump that makes you want to never have imagined it). Again this is done with a level of savage violence that makes the recent swatch of “tortureporn” movies look like what they are – Hollywood productions. A lot of the actual action appears offscreen; we don’t see, for example, the actual nipple being torn off. However the results of the action – blood, screams, and so on – are portrayed so vividly and realistically that you’ll swear you saw the whole thing anyway.
Bringing slight but much needed respite from the relentless violence is the relationship that develops between Christian and Alice, and it is through this that we see Christian as more than just some guy who’s snapped and gone over the edge. We see that there is still a human caring side to him, we learn about his story, and his character is expounded. Having said that, it also brings home that this really is a movie about him, and all other characters in the movie are merely there as vehicles for his story.
The Horseman is an impressive first film from Kastrissios and will find a welcoming audience in the extreme-horror/gore fans. It is, however, too violent for the mainstream and for those people who were shocked by the likes of Saw and Hostel it will most likely provoke quite a strong negative reaction. Personally I thought it was a good, well made budget film that provides welcome relief from the polished “fighting” of Hollywood action movies, and promises good things for the future of this director.