May 26, 2011

The Horseman

Ah, the fear every father adopts with the arrival of a newborn daughter - that his little angel will turn into an indifferent slut. Steven Kastrissios, a 26 year old first-time director, expresses and sketches similar fears in his ultraviolent "revenge" thriller, The Horseman. Constructed from the opening shot of the explosion of a degenerates home, The Horseman took flight once a short film of the matter was received well in film festivals. Acquiring budget and a further enraged vision, Kastrissios began to slowly stoke the fires under The Horseman, leading to a nice composition of heightening suspense and brutality. The Horseman is also quite a polarizing film, leaving many of the fence with its cruel depictions of humanity. Critics and audience members seem to either laud or loathe the sheer savage nature of this father's massacre as well as his intentions. Obviously titled from the idea of a harbinger of death and destruction but of mortal coil, Christian Forteski only sought solace from the mysterious circumstances of his only daughter's death. But when an anonymous source mails him a pornographic film entitled Young City Sluts and he witnesses his princess, obviously drugged, getting taken advantage of, Christian takes it upon himself to pursue and destroy the indirect attackers of his pride.

First off, you'll instantly notice a strong point of The Horseman is its seamy aesthetic of dimly colored grayscale. The Horseman's color palette mainly consists of shades of gray, complimenting the ashes of his daughter to which he seeks to spread somewhere on this barren and merciless rock. This decision to leave the colors dry and the lighting strong and natural makes for sickening detail to pores, sweat and other bodily fluids. The blood featured in The Horseman isn't bright red gush, rather, inky dark substance, quick to congeal and scab. A strange aspect of Christian's quest is what he seems to be killing towards; his confused motive. One would generally suggest to avenge the death of his daughter, but it doesn't seem to be the case with select scenes playing evidence to a hidden picture. Christian isn't killing for the sake of his deceased daughter - in fact, the only real memories he carries as baggage are flashbacks to her in her purest concentrate - toddler. He doesn't ponder thoughts of the rebellious years as a teenager or even preteen. Christian's wake of bodies is to cover the shame left by this creation of addiction. In desperate times, he even purchases every last copy of the film starring his lovely whore directly from the distributor for the sole purpose of destroying every last copy. Christian seeks out every last phallus that tasted the flesh of his bloodline to eradicate the trace of this smear on his good name. The presentation of the in-film film Young City Sluts is dramatic and dripping with enough fetish to warrant the suffering of the father - no lobotomized precursor to heroin fueled fucking. The Horseman is a very authentic experience in depravity, but at the same time, there seems to be no sense in mourning. Jessie is just another case of the father unable to control the wild lusts of his fledgling harlot. Along the way, a female mulatto hitchhiker is given a lift who reminds him of his daughter, though leagues ahead with this thing not common in women called "self-respect". Little does she know that her first-class accommodation is on a vessel that will inevitably lead her into the darkest crevices of desire and murder.

 Quite evident of showmanship, The Horseman, like many other films, stutters near the final act with sensationalistic tendencies. What were once murders, individual, powerful, and unsettling, became something of a body count tally as Christian weaves through a compound leaving numerous corpses in his wake. If there could be one inspiration to cite it would assuredly be Joel Schumacher's 8mm - a tale of an investigator tracking down the source of a purported snuff film, though without the premeditation of murder at the hands of a grieving father. The action scenes tend to foster giggles as well, being shot in a very hyperactive fashion as to obscure impact leaving space for the lack of choreography to deceive. When Christian isn't tackling husky men to the ground and miraculously gaining the upper hand on them, he's committing various acts of genital torture. Such household instruments as fishhooks and tire pumps create harrowing expressions of pure agony. The Horseman is raw bodily nihilism with its perverse tortures and savage seduction. To continue the trend of dissecting the few flaws The Horseman carries would be to challenge the inclusion of the hitchhiker, who arguably only stands to be a crutch to cutting, an act of self-mutilation attributed mainly to teenage girls, which leaves Christian with some explaining to do. Ending on a note of helplessness and violation, the act that preceded the final images was above average at best but includes a scene of bone breakage that would leave any grown man wincing. I can't help but to still look up to The Horseman with stars twinkling in my eyes. Regardless of the faults, no blame can be directed as the feature is a debut work and inspired by anger so furiously, that I claw at the arm of my chair in anticipation of conflict. 


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