All I knew going into the Horseman was that Harry Knowles liked it a lot, and it had gotten some exceptionally good press during the 2008 SXSW festival. I liked the trailer, though, a lot, and the cover to the DVD is one of the more compelling that I've seen, so I dropped the $20 on the disc and brought it home.
Directed by Steven Kastrissios, who for a first-time director essentially nails everything that makes the revenge thriller so compelling. I really haven't been this riveted by a payback film since the first time I saw Rolling Thunder. The Horseman gets the same moods and raw emotion and there's little to no flinching at the violence on the screen.
Revolving around the downward spiral of a father bent on vengeance for the suspected murder of his daughter. Found dead of a heroin overdoes, with cocaine in her system and evidence of sexual assault. Shortly after, the father, Christian (played by Peter Marshall), receives a package containing an X-rated movie featuring his daughter, obviously high and being taken advantage of. He comes to the realization that the people responsible for the film are likely the same people responsible for his daughter's death and embarks on a journey across Australia's backroads doling out vengeance to the people he discovers involved in the incident.
While Kastrissios' direction is top notch, it's the powerhouse performance belonging to Peter Marshall that carries the film. He plays Christian as a driven and relentlessly angry father, outraged by the actions of the people involved with his daughters death even though the further he gets involved in the circumstances the less innocent his daughter seems. The conviction with which he believes in her innocence, though, is what keeps him going throughout, and you will need a strong stomach to get through the length of the film.
I should also mention Caroline Marohasy whose role, while not incredibly lengthy, is key to understanding the motivations of Peter Marshall's Christian. She allows us to see that he's retained his humanity, even after the carnage and violence left in his wake. He looks at her like a second daughter and she plays the role well, while he subtly dotes on her, realizing that his actions have only beget more violence as a result.
PQ on the Screen Media disc is better than I honestly expected. Being one of the last studios I expected to bring blu's to the market, I had low expectations based on some of their SD DVD's that I've seen. There's a lot of grain present, though, and as excellent as some scenes look, showing exceptional detail, there are as many if not more that just look like an upconverted DVD. I don't regret the purchase mind you, as the movie itself more than makes up for any inconsistencies in the picture.
AQ, however, is fantastic. While I've only got a bargain Vizio soundbar, the Horseman really brings out a lot of nuances that I didn't expect to hear, simulating surround sound quite well and really bringing the whole production to life. Very well mastered, and though I'm no audiophile it's one of the better mixes that I've heard. The fantastically ethereal soundtrack doesn't hurt it any either, keeping the mood somber for the duration.
The special features contain a making of feature, deleted scenes and an early short film by Steven Kastrissios that inspired the movie. All in all not a bad package. I've never been real big on excess supplements, though if the movie calls for it, I get stoked on things like short films and decent making of documentaries, so it's cool that they were included here.
Easily one of the most compelling revenge thrillers that I've seen, and I've seen a lot. I'm ranking this up there with Rolling Thunder as far as my top picks, and that's not putting it lightly. Uncompromisingly brutal and relentlessly gritty, Steven Kastrissios' Horseman is a phenomenally awesome debut and I can't wait to see more from him in the future. Peter Marshall, likewise, is a talent to watch and I will be keeping my eye on any future films starring him as well. With decent PQ for the budget they likely had to work with, and a great audio presentation, it's a no-brainer for enthusiasts who love their movies harsh and depressing. Like the recent movie Shotgun Stories and even more recently, Winter's Bone, there are no happy bits here and humor is downplayed to where it's virtually non-existant. I loved it, and would highly recommend it to viewers who can handle the content.