In the ferocious, low-budget revenge thriller The Horseman a grieving father pummels, slays and blazes his way across rural Queensland on the trail of the men responsible for the heroin-addled death of his teenage daughter.
Its commitment to the shocking lengths a tormented soul will slog for retribution might be absolute, but first-time writer/director Steven Kastrissios leavens the grimness by developing a tender friendship between the bereaved Christian (Peter Marshall) and a mixed-up young hitchhiker (Caroline Marohasy) to elevate The Horseman beyond the realms of simple easy-sell, bloodhound-appeasing exploitation. That it succeeds as a gut-wrenching drama is owed to Marshall’s convictive, conflicted performance, with his vengeful Christian managing to remain on the right side of our sympathies without ever coming off as merely mind-snapped, sadistic or maniacal.
Shooting on grain-soaked, largely handheld digital, Kastrissios brings a hammering immediacy to Christian’s various haemoglobin-splattering encounters, which sit just close enough to realism as to trigger in-seat audience squirm (even when the act takes place off-screen). Points, too, for the inventive methods of torture our eponymous punisher both dispenses and is himself later subjected to. You’ll never look at a football pump the same way again.
Cobbled together on a budget that makes Samson & Delilah’s modest pricetag seem positively decadent, The Horseman is by no means the obvious product of its humble spend. Kastrissios has deftly tailored his tale to the production’s fiscal limitations, so it’s exactly the kind of raw and unpolished its stark story so flatly demands.
Think of it as a homegrown answer to Oldboy via El Mariachi: bracingly visceral and laudably ambitious.
DIRECTOR: Steven Kastrissios
SCREENWRITER: Steven Kastrissios
CAST: Peter Marshall, Caroline Marohasy, Brad McMurray, Jack Henry, Christopher Sommers
RUN TIME: 110 minutes
The Horseman is on limited release from July 8th and is screening at the following locations:
Find more on The Horseman at the film’s official site.