The Horseman (2008)

When The Horseman comes, he brings his toolbox!
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The Horseman - When The Horseman comes, he brings his toolbox!

Christian is grieving following the complicated drug related death of his daughter. On receiving an anonymous video in the post, showing Jessie being mistreated, he sets out on a mission to get answers and take revenge. Using everyday tools from his trusty toolbox he tortures his way closer to the answers he seeks. On the way he meets Alice, a young runaway looking for a lift. When a friendship blossoms between the two, it raises the questions, what effect will this have on Christian's mission, and what effect will his mission have on Alice?

The revenge horror/thriller is not, by any means, a new concept, so the effectiveness of a movie like this rests, in my opinion, on how believable the performances are. They are perfect here. The lead role of Christian is played fantastically by Peter Marshall, his grief for his daughter, contempt for his victims and tenderness towards Alice are all completely believable. He never takes it too far as to become some unrealistic superhuman killing machine, and never takes it down so far as to seem weak. Alice, played nicely by Caroline Marohasy is wonderful as his unknowing companion along for the ride.

As I mentioned, Christian's vengeance never becomes ridiculous, which is where the next star of this movie comes in, the violence and fight scenes. They are done bone-shatteringly, groin-wincingly, head-smashingly well. The fight scenes look real. Not like two actors pretending to fight in a choreographed dance, but like two people actually brawling for their life. The torture scenes too are done beautifully, with a lot happening off screen, or the scene cutting just before the climactic blow. This would normally disappoint me, but here it is used to great effect, leaving you just enough room for your imagination to fill in the blanks. The violence and torture are accompanied by some of the best used sound effects I have come across in a movie like this, the sound being enough for you to feel every blow. I believe some of these cuts and sounds may have been used to reduce the need for expensive effects, but somehow it works better than seeing it in full glory.

The seemingly simplistic cinematography adds much realism to this gritty drama, all the locations feel genuine and the shots of the long lonely roads of Australia add to the sense of Christian's detachment.

As with all revenge movies, there is a moral ambiguity here. We feel relieved when Christian gains the upper hand in a fight, but question ourselves for this knowing it will result in torture and death for the combatant. Here, thanks to the fine acting from the lead, we feel that every time he hurts someone physically, it hurts him emotionally. We feel that a piece of him dies each time one of his victims does.

That brings us to what I believe to be the true horror in a movie like this, loss. The loss of a loved one, the loss of ability to protect the ones we love, the loss of control of emotions and actions and loss of identity as it is swallowed up by the need for revenge.

Another clever trick this film performs is never giving too much back story. We see flashbacks of Christian with his young daughter, but that is really all we have. This, I feel, keeps our focus on Christian's journey here and now, rather than anything that happened before.

We have to wonder what happened for Jessie to go from the cute little girl we see idyllically playing with her father in the flashbacks, to being associated with the kind of people she eventually ends up with. But I get the feeling that Christian doesn't really have that answer, so neither do we. Ultimately, we know what we need to know for the story and characters to work, which is fine by me.

I have very few complaints about this movie; the film can seem a little repetitive at times, moving from one torture/questioning scene to the next, and the climactic scenes maybe go on a little too long, but these are minor problems with what is otherwise a powerful, brutal, gripping and emotional movie.

Overall this is a film that horror and thriller fans alike can enjoy and get drawn into, a little known Australian gem that more people out there should see, including Hollywood makers of films from this genre.
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