I have a definite fondness for psychological thrillers; they have the terrific potential to engage its audience, to serve up suspense and send the audience into one mind-boggling ride. In the tradition of “Seven” and “Resurrection”, “HORSEMEN” is another suspense thriller that captures themes of religious and Biblical significance that mixes in some mild elements from “Saw” and “Antibodies”. Directed by Jonas Akerlund and co-produced by Michael Bay, the film is a composition of a very grim narrative that gets its strength from probable misery.
Aidan Breslin (Dennis Quaid) is a cop reeling from the death of his wife some years ago; trying to keep everything together with his two sons, Sean and Alex (Liam James and Lou Taylor Pucci respectively). Life isn’t already easy for a single dad who happens to be assigned to a new serial killer case that targets the city with the promise of Biblical apocalypse. When a demented killer gives herself up, (played by Ziyi Zhang) a young woman named Kristin who is supposedly a victim of sexual abuse. She apparently holds the codes to further acts of murder that somehow involves the fetish action of suspension. Aidan relentlessly works to make sense of the clues, as Kristin is not the only psychopath on the loose, but three others who have the ambition to name themselves after the four horsemen of the Apocalypse.
The film has tremendous potential and the direction definitely knows that it does have an ambitious theme. Akerlund does manage to engage me in the film’s first 40 minutes as it generates an eerie atmosphere, some freaky images and a feeling of dread that captures a strong sensation of despair that something bad is going to happen and that it is only going to get worse. The script combines certain CSI-like aesthetics and good cinematography that manipulates the senses to expect something truly shocking and unnerving. The film’s promise is there, and quite frankly it left me anticipating what would come next. After all, a prophetic killer holds such a large promise that it may at least be twisted as “Resurrection”.
Well, after we become privy to a dead fetus, the film goes downhill. The film just loses its momentum, it started to lack any feeling of suspense and doesn’t even give a decent scare. The plot becomes a bit convoluted as the film’s central plot slowly begins to unveil. The Biblical theme begins to get lost in its narrative, that the ambition becomes a muddled and quite frankly too predictable. Instead we begin to see a father-son relationship take center stage, and whatever creepiness it may have attained become muddied by too much teenage angst. Alright, I can forgive a bit of a subtle subplot here and there, as long as it helps its theme come full circle, which becomes the main issue with the script--it stops short.
The writing does seem to be in the right spot, but writer David Callaham takes the biblical tone to acts of sadism, that creeps around to pack some gross-out spots to attain some shock value. The killings are intense, the self-mutilation scenes can be a bit gory (thank goodness there’s no CGI) but it does nothing to advance its biblical tone. Unlike “Seven” the way the gore and blood are set up doesn’t fit its religious overtone that it becomes very insignificant. After awhile, it all becomes like a cheap way to surprise its audience; the writing felt a little confused, and it loses focus on everything else. The film also tries to generate a similar “Clarice and Lecter” feel to the Aidan and Kristin relationship but it never becomes compelling. “Horsemen” reaches a cinematic digression that it never recovers from, as the script becomes more and more unfocused.
The acting is decent for the most part. Quaid had his moments, and I do know that the man can act. Well, I guess he did nicely in his portrayal as a cop-father who is trying to keep things together. Ziyi Zhang may be a little miscast but she made do with what she had. Zhang is one very charismatic lady and it was quite refreshing to see her broaden her horizons in acting. She is sexy, seductive, and maybe even a bit creepy in her portrayal as the adopted daughter who gets sexually abused. (Sorry, the sex scenes are only hinted at, but there is Polaroid shot of a possible sighting of a nude Ziyi Zhang)
I suppose “Horsemen” had the ambition to try to depart the usual serial killer mechanics but unfortunately, it misses its mark. Experienced movie fans will undoubtedly see the twist coming from a mile away. I do not want to spoil the film, but suffice it to say, the film blends elements from “Seven” and “Resurrection” with some “Silence of the Lambs” together with some “Antibodies”-like twist and turns. It feels like parts of other successful psychological thrillers that make up its whole; with the message of an angry generation making up its focal point. The climax is just too underwhelming and quite ridiculous. While the heart may be in the right place, the film’s execution is just a whole lot of uneven misfires.
Rent it [2 Stars]
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