Kastrissios doesn”t have money for an A-list Hollywood veteran, nor the backing for city-wide chaos, car stunts, or complex gun fights on yachts. So he wrote a script that starts off with Christian, a father who receives a letter and a video tape shortly after the death of his estranged daughter. The tape is of a gang-bang porn the strung-out daughter filmed while high on heroin the day she died. The cops have already told Christian that they found DNA from four different men inside her, but only three men are seen in the tape. It’s the last blow the already broken father can take, so he sets out to find out who made the tape and who the unseen fourth man is.
What follows is a white knuckle thriller that goes into deep, dark recesses that prey on the Mr. Hyde inside anyone who has truly loved another human being. I may have fears of the unknown, fears of tall, lanky grey men from beyond the stars staring at me while I sleep, but what happens in THE HORSEMAN is my absolute worst nightmare. I’m not yet a father, but if what happened to Christian’s daughter were to happen to my wife, I would track down and every single motherfucker who had even the slightest involvement and stick a knife in their throat. Just thinking about that scenario makes my blood boil, but to see that hypothetical captured so well on the screen, and to see how wrong needs for revenge can quickly go, shakes me to my core more than any horror movie I’ve seen this year.
Granted it would be a stretch to say that THE HORSEMAN follows the typical definition of a horror movie, it most certainly doesn’t, but it has a raw honesty in each step it takes towards complete loss of control that is more terrifying than all the demonic possessions, resurrected machete wielders, and gypsy curses you’ll find in regular horror. The violence in it is savage and unforgiving, causing me on multiple occasions to physically flinch at the material on screen. Making matters worse is when Christian picks up a hitchhiking gal who reminds him of us daughter. His relationship with her is such a great source of empathy that when things fall farther apart, it’s like throwing a skinless man on a salt flat.
And that’s even more impressive when you consider that THE HORSEMAN opens with Christian’s life already shattered. He’s completed his character arc, he has reached his end self and learned that all he cares about is bleeding out every sleazy pervert and drug addict that took advantage of his daughter, and then probably going to jail for his actions. That might be a problem for those who prefer a character develop over the course of a film, but this is one rare instance in which a character requires no development. Sure, Kastrissios script progressively fills in a few blanks as it unfolds, but for the most part Christian is the same single-purpose, hellbound heart throughout.
Which is fine because Peter Marshall does such a damned good job selling every bone crunching blow from a pipe, whether he’s giving or receiving, that his performance exceeds the need for an overt moral journey. He is a man committed and you can see his sundered soul in every wince, snarl, and defeated attempt at a smile. He perfectly reflects the turmoil all of us feel when we think about what he sets out to do, whether we could even take the first steps or dive in knife first like Christian does, and whether or not it’s even justified. How easy it is to get lost in his character’s mindset, for someone like me, is the most chilling aspect of the film. Beyond the score that sounds like its filled with mini-nuclear bombs of bass, beyond the always-appropriate camera work, beyond the simple-yet-complicated script, it’s one’s ability to see themselves not just in Christian’s shoes, but doing what Christian does that makes THE HORSEMAN am outstanding accomplishment.
Kastrissios is definitely dealing with difficult material that isn’t suited for everyone, but if you’re up for having your ass kicked, THE HORSEMAN is an unforgettable film.