Sunday, July 19, 2009

Fantasia Film Fest Review: The Horseman


The Horseman (2008) imdb Fantasia
Directed by Steven Kastrissios
Written bySteven Kastrissios

He Has Some Questions

When I read the summary description of The Horseman, I thought to myself, "Cool, an Australian Death Wish!" but The Horseman is so much more than that. The film grabs you by the throat from very first minute "And damn'd be him that first cries 'Hold, enough!'"

Our 'hero' Christian Forteski (played by Peter Marshall) has lost his daughter, his only child, to a drug overdose (a lethal combination of heroine, cocaine and alcohol) she suffered while working on a porn shoot. Christian has made it his mission to find, brutally interrogate and kill every person involved in that porn film. His weapons of choice are not guns, but common household tools found in every handy-man's tool box.

What astonished me about The Horseman wasn't the violence, it was the visceral examination of revenge as an addiction, one that takes a physical toll not just on those being punished, but on the punishers as well.

(I suppose the Bronson Death Wish films had a meta-commentary on the addictive nature of vengeance since they made five films in the franchise, but that is more of a commentary on the producers' addiction to money.)

The Horseman does not make Christian's vengeance easy, nor does it make him an easy man to like. There are hints that Christian's inability to forgive drove away his daughter in the first place. His character (and this film is a character piece - one drenched in blood perhaps, but a character piece nonetheless) Christian's character is neatly summed up in the moment when, after receiving his dead daughter's porn tape anonymously in the mail, Christian dumps his daughter's ashes in the kitchen garbage and minutes later is on his knees sorting through the egg-shells and coffee grounds separating back out his daughter's ashes.

And that is as neat of a summation of this film as you will find, I expect: this is a film about an obsessed and heart-broken father, sifting through garbage with his bare hands looking for the ashes of his daughter.

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