Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Dennis Quaid, Ziyi Zhang, Lou Taylor Pucci, Clifton Collins Jr, Eric Balfour, Patrick Fugit, Peter Storemare
Directed by Jonas Akerlund
Distributed by Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Platinum Dunes finally makes a horror movie that isn't a remake or aimed squarely at tweeners and twenty-somethings, and it ends up going straight-to-DVD. Why am I not surprised?
Horsemen is a Se7en-ish thriller - 4our would have been a most fitting title. But that only works if you're willing to buy into the psychology behind the motivation of the killers, or, for that matter, the very identity of the ringleader of these Four Horsemen-inspired killers, or that when this ringleader is revealed to explain the message behind the murders, they do so suspended by metal hooks through their arms and back in a crucifixion position at least 30 feet up in the air and got there on their own without the assistance of anyone else.
It only works if you're willing to believe a quartet of killers can sneak in and out of populated buildings with heavy clanging metal frames undetected.
It only works if you're willing to believe a teenager can stab arteries with a degree of precision we're told would even be challenging for a skilled surgeon.
It only works if you're willing to believe Dennis Quaid's widowed single dad truly does care about the well-being of his two sons even after his neglected firstborn chides him for being such an absentee father he hasn't even looked inside his bedroom for three years.
It only works if you're willing to believe a married family man would hide incest photos in the Bible kept in the living room.
It only works if you're willing to believe Ziyi Zhang playing a 16-year-old, for crying out loud.
Yeah, for Horsemen to hold up, it requires the viewer to accept a lot of stuff that can be a bit hard to swallow. Did I mention somebody hangs themself thirty-plus feet in the air with metal hooks in their arms all by their lonesome?
Dennis Quaid stars as Aiden Breslin, a forensic odontoligist, a criminal pathologist specializing in teeth and bite marks. His wife died of cancer a few years earlier, his teenage son attends therapy, the youngest son is still too young to fully comprehend the loss, and Aiden copes by throwing himself into his work to such a degree he's grown distant from both of them. A platter of bloody pulled teeth with no corpse to go along with it gives him another chance to push his sons aside in favor of drowning his sorrows in work. A corpse suspended from hooks on metal frames with cryptic clues is the first victim, sending him in search of a quartet of serial killers basing their methodology on the Biblical Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Think Se7en with a dash of Dee Snyder's Strangeland tossed in for additional gruesomeness.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon's Ziyi Zhang, in what I think may be her first-ever all-English role, co-stars as the adopted teenage daughter of the first victim and the first of the Horsemen killers to be revealed. Ziyi Zhang looks young for her age, but she's well past the point of being passed off as a minor. Her introduction has her hugging her two younger sisters; she looks more like their 30-year-old nanny. Zhang starts out shy and quiet, but when it comes time for Quaid to interrogate her, she undergoes such an unbelievably maniacal personality shift you'd think she was playing a Chinese Harley Quinn.
To reveal anything more would be to spoil the further twists, and this is a serial killer that is all about misdirection and building towards a big climactic twist. And coincidences; can't forget the myriad of coincidences that fall into place. And some annoying plot holes to boot. You'll probably figure out who the main orchestrator of the murders is long before that individual reveals him or herself and still find it hard to believe when the time comes.
All of that is a shame because Horsemen is a fairly well made and acted film, with the exception of Ziyi Zhang's scene-chewing and Clifton Collins Jr's irritating turn as Quaid's partner, known only as "Stingray" for some reason.
Jonas Akerlund, a veteran of countless music videos and 2003's Spun, brings some dignity to Doom scribe Dave Callaham's hopelessly convoluted script. Akerlund takes a quieter, more subtle slow burn approach to the story; that alone probably proved to be death knell for its theatrical chances given Platinum Dunes penchant for noisy, over-edited filmmaking. Perhaps a little too slow, too subtle, too lacking in suspense; a scene that begins with Eric Balfour as a blue collar guy verbally abusing his gay kid brother takes a turn that proves more emotionally gut-wrenching than anything else the film throws at us.
I have a strong feeling that opinions on Horsemen are going to be very mixed. Some are going to be able to overlook the story's nonsense and give it high marks. Some are going to outright hate on it. Others still are going to end up feeling like me, which is to say very little. More than anything else, the finale left my eyes rolling with disbelief and not just because I didn’t buy into the primary Horsemen’s identity or their improbable motivation.
Crucified 30 feet up in the air and got there on their own without the assistance of anyone else – not even so much as a ladder!
2 1/2 out of 5
2 out of 5
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