Sunday, July 12, 2009


“And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, ‘Come and see.’”
-- Revelation 6:7

There are certain recurring elements that seem to be thrown at the viewer when the standard serial killer thriller/procedural is on hand: among them, some Bible bits, and a slew of disturbingly gruesome kills.
Se7en did it.
Millennium did it. A lot.
So it is that it takes quite a lot for me to get worked up over a serial killer thriller/procedural these days.
Now we’ve got Jonas Åkerlund’s Horsemen, which, admittedly, attempts to take the sub-genre a little further than it’s traveled before.

I’ve been following Horsemen’s trail for quite awhile now, tuning into the project after it looked like Jaume Balaguero was going to direct it for Platinum Dunes.
That ultimately didn’t work out though, and Horsemen instead fell into the lap of Åkerlund, whose last feature was the frenetic entry in the canons of drug cinema, Spun.
I rather liked Spun, so when news broke that Åkerlund was in the director’s chair, I was still determined to check out Horsemen.
And now that I have seen it, I must admit that while some of it works, some of it doesn’t.

Det. Aidan Breslin (Dennis Quaid) is a troubled cop whose specialty—forensic odontology—brings him to the fore of a case that quickly reveals itself as one where the perpetrators display a distinct fixation on the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
Cue Biblical bits (complete with expository chat with the neighbourhood priest, played by Paul Dooley) and disturbingly gruesome kills (courtesy of the awesome K.N.B. EFX).
Those aspects, and the view we get of Breslin’s struggles on the homefront, particularly his fractured relationship with teen son Alex (Southland Tales’ Lou Taylor Pucci), are what work in Horsemen.
There’s also an attempt to portray a complicated plan that’s compromised by the very human nature of its perpetrators; we eventually see where the scheme buckles, despite the intentions of its mastermind.

Where Horsemen doesn’t work though is in its underutilization of some very capable actors (among them, Clifton Collins, Jr. and Peter Stormare).
We get a fine performance from Patrick Fugit (who’d previously worked with Åkerlund on Spun), but it’s limited to a short portion of the film, playing almost like a vignette in the context of the entire narrative.
In fact, there are elements of the script (by Dave Callaham, who’s also written the script for Michael Cuesta’s Tell-Tale) that just don’t seem to reach any manner of resolution, among them, the subplot that involves Zhang Ziyi.
Then there’s that ending, which plays like such a Hollywood copout, the sort of ending that isn’t earned at all, but somehow feels tacked on.

Granted, the perpetrators have a point to make, motivations that transcend the usual psychopathology of your average movie serial killer, but in the end, Horsemen just doesn’t cohere as well as I’d hoped.
Disappointing, considering my fondness for Spun.
At any rate, Callaham’s script showed a certain level of ambition, so I can only hope that his screenplay for Tell-Tale (a contemporary update of Edgar Allan Poe’s "The Tell-Tale Heart") will likewise strive for something more than your average Hollywood horror thrills.

Parting shot: With Cuesta at the helm of Tell-Tale, my hopes for it rise even higher…

(Horsemen OS courtesy of; images courtesy of bad-taste-it.)

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