Christian (Peter Marshall), a father driven to revenge over the death of his daughter during an adult film shoot, is interrogating Finn (Jack Henry), the producer of the porn. Christian, hardly a fitting name, drops Finn’s pants after tying him to a chair. He walks over to his tool box of torture toys, grabs a pair of pliers, and glances at Flinn’s groin with obvious evil intentions.
Every male in the audience is already cringing at the possibilities, imagining themselves stuck in the same situation with a madman ready to utilize pliers on their own manhood. Christian puts down the pliers though, much to the relief of the audience… and then picks up a manual air pump… which he lubes up and then… well, you probably do not need a description.
No, The Horseman is not a movie about a genetic experiment gone wrong in which a man’s DNA is mixed with a horse. Darn. It is also not about the apocalypse, although surely Flinn would rather be experiencing that event than having an air pump utilized on this privates. This is a gruesome, bloody revenge film, coming from first time director (and writer) Steven Kastrissos out of Australia. Needless to say, it does not do much for tourism.
There are a few ideas in The Horseman that work (or at least ones that don’t involve pumps of any kind). Christian picks up a runaway girl, treating her as his own daughter. He learns of this girl’s early pregnancy, and despite having murdered six people in graphic fashion, begins to explain the love between a child and father. It gives Christian a bit of humanity since all the audience has seen of him so far involves a crowbar, pliers, and his own fists.
Kastrissos directs a few fight scenes in an aggressive manner, the film opening on a rather noisy clash between Christian and one of the adult film stars. The extensive camera shake does not detract from the film, actually keeping the brawl in frame and maintaining its intensity. The same goes for the finale, where tension is derived from a brief stand-off before the final kill is made.
Horseman comes in a bit over 90-minutes, yet feels longer. Padding is obvious, the sluggish pacing and continual torture scenes at times seem to have no end. Christian’s search for information is not as interesting as his twisted techniques, such as using fish hooks on another victim’s privates… Christian seems to have a bit of an obsession here, no? It is the only reason Horseman is notable, otherwise falling into a realm of mediocrity where every man in the audience will want to look away.
Horseman was shot for $10,000, and undoubtedly by the looks of this transfer, it was done digitally. It would certainly make sense for a budget like that. The result is a wildly fluctuating effort, one with few scenes of any rich detail, and many with extensive, screen-filling noise. The opening shot of the film, drenched in deep blues, is littered with artifacts, something this VC-1 encode seems to cause far too often.
For instance, a grassy field at 2:11 reveals some noticeable compression on the left side of the frame when in motion, failing to resolve individual blades or any other plants. A shot at 6:08 is noticeably smooth, certainly carrying a noise-reduced look, or just merely consistent with cheap digital filmmaking. A shot at 50:43 appears soft, making the actors appear blob-like in appearance.
Aliasing is regularly evident, first noted on Christian’s shirt pocket 8:12. Some ringing is notable around the detective at 12:44, the only instance. Certain scenes carry a distinct and heavy noise structure, the worst of it coming at 1:07:10, when characters are pulled over by a cop. Here, even colors cannot separate behind the grit, although this is almost certainly intentional.
Contrast runs hot in numerous scenes, and while the black levels appear deep, they cause significant crush. Shadow detail is lost in almost every sequence. Colors are always faded and pale, leaving flesh tones lifeless and pinkish. The best looking moments on the disc come during a torture sequence (when else?) at 37:40. The heavy lighting glistens off the actors’ faces, the blood and sweat visible and somewhat defined. This is an ugly film as defined by the source, although the encode is doing it no favors either.
An uncompressed DTS-HD mix is given little to do. The opening scene exhibits some excellent stereo separation as someone is tossed around a room, something that will continue to be dominate with this effort. Positional audio is typically limited to the sides, and slightly overdone in the surrounds, such as when Christian sprays poison behind the viewer in the opening fight.
Dialogue is a bit low, although generally audible. The recording method, definitely live on the set for most of the film, hardly helps fidelity. A scream at 38:17 carries some notable distortion. The subwoofer does not get much to work with, just a few thuds as people are hit and a heartbeat effect at 1:14:04 that dips deep (and cleanly) into the low-end. Some rain during the final fight offers a bit of ambiance in the rears. There is simply not much here.
Two commentaries are offered, one from director Steven Kastrissos, and the other featuring part of his cast and crew. Kastrissos’ commentary carries over (optionally) to a 15-minute short film included on the disc as well. A well made making of runs a bit over a half-hour, followed by three deleted scenes. Three interview segments run about 20-minutes in total with different cast members discussing how they became involved.
Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us by Screen Media Films. This has not affected the editorial process. For more information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.